Lawyer asks SC to compel Duterte to disclose health records since he assumed office

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, April 13) — A lawyer has urged the Supreme Court to compel Malacañang to release all of President Rodrigo Duterte’s health records since he assumed office and for the chief executive to undergo confirmatory medical tests.

In his 42-page petition filed Monday before the high court, lawyer Dino de Leon argued that the Office of the President is duty-bound to disclose the state of Duterte’s health as mandated by the Constitution.

“The illnesses acknowledged by the President come within the meaning of ‘serious illness’ under the Constitution," De Leon pointed out, "and given the gravity of the illnesses openly acknowledged by the President, the public release of his medical bulletins becomes a ministerial duty upon request from any concerned citizen."

In the same petition, De Leon said he first filed a freedom of information request for Duterte’s medical records before the Office of the President on March 12. The Malacañang Records Office, however, told him the next day that his request is “not among the records available on file nor in the possession of the office," he claimed.

De Leon said he was prompted to seek information on Duterte’s health following his recent press conferences and addresses on COVID-19 where he “barely finished a single full sentence, and a lot of people had difficulty following what he was saying.”

He contended that his request for Duterte’s health records is in line with the public’s right to be informed of matters that affect them.

“How can the public be assured that the President is physically well to handle the COVID-19 pandemic?” De Leon said. “When everyone's safety is in peril, the Filipino people should at least have information on the health of the main decision maker.”

He also argued that Duterte has a “minimal expectation of privacy when it comes to his physical and mental health.”

“At any rate, there is no harm if the health records of the President are disclosed," De Leon noted. "There can only be two scenarios. The first scenario is that the President is actually physically and mentally healthy. The other scenario, which is the worst case, is that the President is actually suffering from serious illnesses, which means that the public should be informed of the situation, as commanded by the Constitution.”

Malacanang has yet to issue a statement on the matter.

Serious illness?

Article VII, Section 12 of the Constitution mandates that the public should be informed of the president’s state of health in case of serious illness.

Duterte himself has admitted to facing several health woes, including myasthenia gravis, daily migraines, Buerger’s Disease, Barrett’s Esophagus and gastroesophageal reflux disease.

He also said that he had undergone a biopsy, wherein he said he tested negative for cancer.

The President also revealed that he is taking sleeping pills and needs “additional oxygen” to breathe while sleeping.

“The President’s public admission[s] … paint a picture of a President afflicted with various serious illnesses, which at the minimum will cause serious inconvenience to and prejudice the discharge of his official duties,” De Leon said.

Malacañang, however, said De Leon’s petition should be immediately dismissed, supposedly for having no factual or legal basis.

“There is no evidence submitted before the high court that the President is suffering from a serious illness,” Chief Presidential Legal Counsel Salvador Panelo said. “The suit may have been a product of petitioner's boredom as a result of the enhanced community quarantine.”

A January 2019 poll revealed that more Filipino adults were worried about Duterte’s health and more of them also believed that the President has health problems.

Despite widespread concern, Malacañang has been adamant about needing to release medical bulletins on Duterte, insisting that all is well with the President’s health.