MANILA, Philippines – "I will tell you that we have another problem, because there is a pretender to the throne assuming that I die within maybe tomorrow, next week, or next month."
"There are two claimants to the presidency," President Rodrigo Duterte said on Wednesday, June 28, as he spoke at the 120th founding anniversary of the Presidential Security Group (PSG).
Duterte was not referring to Vice President Leni Robredo and former senator Ferdinand Marcos Jr, the two personalities fighting over the vice presidency before the Supreme Court sitting as the Presidential Electoral Tribunal (PET).
Duterte was referring to habitual nuisance bet and suspended lawyer Elly Pamatong, who was recently shown in a Facebook video announcing that he is now Philippine president.
"One of them has already organized, and he has claimed that he has deposed me – presidential candidate Pamatong. He said he has taken over," Duterte said in a mix of English and Filipino.
"E ngayon nandiyan si Leni. Baka magkamali kayo ng kampo ha. Dito tayo sa Konstitusyon (Now Leni is there. You might join the wrong camp. Let us side with the Constitution)," Duterte said.
Still referring to the Constitution, Duterte said, "There is a successor there."
In his speech at the PSG anniversary, Duterte again talked about life and death. "Death always looms in the horizon. But you know, there is always a time to live and a time to die. How do you die? It's God's call," the President said.
Duterte made these remarks in the face of speculations about his health, after rumors swirled that he was "comatose" during his days-long absence.
Paterno R. Esmaquel II is a senior reporter leading Rappler’s coverage of religion and foreign affairs. He finished MA Journalism in Ateneo and MSc Asian Studies (Religions in Plural Societies) at RSIS, Singapore. For story ideas or feedback, email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.