By Genalyn Kabiling
President Duterte is leaving today for Tokyo for a four-day visit to participate in the Nikkei Conference on the Future of Asia on May 31.
While in Japan, Duterte is scheduled to hold bilateral talks with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Friday and are expected to tackle defense and security issues, economic cooperation, infrastructure development, entry of Filipino skilled workers to Japan, assistance for the Bangsamoro region, as well as regional issues such as the Korean Peninsula and the South China Sea.
Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo assured the public that the President has no life-threatening illness.
Panelo gave the assurance after the President appeared “sleepy” and “struggled to be awake” during the graduation rites of the Philippine Military Academy (PMA) Sunday due to heavy workload on the eve of the event.
The President, whom Panelo said had only two hours of sleep arrived two hours late and had to be assisted by his security men as he struggled to walk down a flight of stairs to the stage and later in boarding a military jeep for the trooping the line of the cadet corps.
He said the President was busy “working on papers, reading reports from various departments, and signing papers” the day before the PMA graduation.
“He is a night person. He usually sleeps at 6 a.m. He had to wake up at 8:30 a.m. for the PMA graduation rites so he had only two hours of sleep. The event at 9 a.m. was part of his sleeping time,” Panelo said.
“He was so sleepy when he arrived at the venue. He struggled to be awake,” the Palace official added.
Panelo explained that the President let Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana distribute the diplomas to the graduating class to “reserve his energy” for other ceremonial acts he had to perform at the event.
“The protocol in distributing diplomas is either he does it himself or he tasks the Secretary of National Defense to do it,” he said.
The President was back in his “usual alert, impassioned and assertive self” when he delivered his speech at the PMA graduation, according to Panelo.
“He made some mischievous remarks to make people laugh. People have been used to his jokes hence his audience always receives them with hearty laughter,” Panelo said in the wake of criticisms against the President’s latest rape joke at the PMA gathering.
The President gave the diploma, Presidential Saber, and certificate of ownership to a house and lot to class valedictorian Dionne Mae Umalla, and sat back to let Lorenzana distribute the diplomas to the remaining members of the graduating class.
Duterte stood up again to give a pistol to PMA class goat Danmark Solomon.
Duterte also gifted the incoming corps commander with a watch – his watch – which he removed and snapped on to the wrist of the PMA cadet.
In his speech, the President urged the PMA graduates to be good and humble soldiers, serve the country well, and die for the country if needed.