Duterte now claims he has rare myasthenia gravis muscle disease

MANILA, Philippines – President Rodrigo Duterte said he has the rare muscle disease, myasthenia gravis, which adds to an increasing list of his claims on the state of his health.

"Actually my – that's myasthenia gravis. It's a nerve malfunction. I got it from my, exactly from my grandfather, ganun rin siya (he's like that also). So, I believe really in genetics," Duterte said in a speech delivered to the Filipino community in Russia on Saturday, October 5. 

Myasthenia gravis is a rare autoimmune neuromuscular disease, where antibodies destroy muscle receptors that prevents the muscle from contracting. It can result in the drooping of eyelids, or overall weakness. (READ: President's health: Touchy topic for Duterte, public concern for Constitution)

Duterte, 74, said it explains why one of his eyes has uncontrollable movement. He mentioned having the ailment while trying to make the audience laugh with his joke that if he were to be punished for his bloody anti-drug war, he would be willing to be executed for as long as he could first sing with the lady he had a duet with in his second trip to Russia. He imagined having eye contact with her but could not.

"Ganun ako eh. May talent ako, magtingin ako sa'yo, 'yung isang mata ko bumaba. Kita mo maliit 'yung isa, tingnan mo. O 'di maliit. O 'yun. Nag- nagsasariling biyahe 'yan," said Duterte.

(I'm like that. I have a talent, I look at you, but my other eye goes down. Can you see the smaller eye? Look at it, it's smaller, it moves on its own.) 

President Rodrigo Roa Duterte sings a duet with one of the performers during his meeting with the Filipino community at the Exhibition of Achievements of National Economy (VDNH) in Moscow on October 5, 2019. ROBINSON NIu00c3u0091AL JR./PRESIDENTIAL PHOTO

President Rodrigo Roa Duterte sings a duet with one of the performers during his meeting with the Filipino community at the Exhibition of Achievements of National Economy (VDNH) in Moscow on October 5, 2019. ROBINSON NIu00c3u0091AL JR.

/PRESIDENTIAL PHOTO

"With treatment, most individuals with myasthenia can significantly improve their muscle weakness and lead full lives. Sometimes, the severe weakness of myasthenia gravis may cause respiratory failure, which requires immediate emergency medical care," said the US  National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke.

President's state of health

Myasthenia gravis adds to the list of medical conditions that the President himself claims to have. 

In October 2018, Duterte said he was found with a polyp in his intestines. He also said he tested for cancer but that it came back negative.

He has also claimed to have Buerger's disease, a rare condition involving the constriction of blood vessels in the arms and legs, blocking blood flow. 

At another instance, the President said he has Barrett's esophagus, which is a complication of GERD or gastroesophageal reflux disease.

Duterte has also said in passing that he has "spinal issues."

Speculations on his state of health have prompted a routine "proof of life" releases from Malacañang – or close aide Senator Bong Go – whenever Duterte disappears from the public eye.

The 1987 Constitution states that the President must disclose the state of his health if he has a "serious illness." 

Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra has earlier said "serious illness" is a term that is hard to define, while he and other Cabinet members insist there is no need for Malacañang to issue medical bulletins. – Rappler.com

Lian Buan

Lian Buan covers justice and corruption for Rappler. She is interested in decisions, pleadings, audits, contracts, and other documents that establish a trail. If you have leads, email lian.buan@rappler.com or tweet @lianbuan.

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