Duterte: Philippines President Confirms He Does Not Have Cancer

Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte has confirmed he does not have cancer, amid concerns about the controversial strongman's health.

Duterte, 73, did not appear at two recent events despite being scheduled to do so, triggering widespread speculation. He further fueled speculation himself in comments at a speech televised across the whole country last week before he visited the hospital for tests.

"I don't know where I'm now physically, but I have to wait for that," Duterte said at a presidential dinner for soldiers and police officers, Reuters reported. "But, I will tell you if its cancer, it's cancer. If it's third stage, no more treatment. I will not prolong the agony in this office or anywhere."

Eduardo Ano, interior minister for the Philippines, sought to play down the latest fears about Duterte, who took office in June 2016. He triggered a brutal crackdown on illicit drugs in the country, which has seen a large number of extrajudicial killings.

According to the South China Morning Post, Ano told reporters that Duterte had informed a meeting of his cabinet on Monday night that hospital tests on samples from his intestines were negative for cancer.

The country's constitution mandates that if a president is in ill health, the public must be made aware, and if they die while in office, are permanently disabled, or forced out through impeachment, the vice president takes over for the rest of the term, the Post reported.

Leni Robredo, who leads the opposition Liberal Party, is vice-president. Duterte's party is PDP-Laban.

The latest saga about Duterte's health is not the first. It follows a week last year where he disappeared from public, causing similar rumors.

Duterte, a former mayor of Davao City, is an outspoken hardliner characterized by his "War on Drugs" and outrageous comments.

While president-elect, Duterte urged the country's citizens to shoot and kill drug dealers themselves. "Please feel free to call us, the police, or do it yourself if you have the gun, you have my support," he said. "Shoot him and I'll give you a medal."

He later compared his drugs war to the Holocaust. "Hitler massacred 3 million Jews. Now there are 3 million drug addicts [in the Philippines]. I'd be happy to slaughter them," he said at a speech in Davao in September 2016.

Recently, he made widely condemned remarks about raping women. "They say there are many rape cases in Davao," Duterte told an audience at a speech in the city of Cebu. "Well, for as long as there are many beautiful women, there will be many rape cases, too."

Duterte then joked that women rarely agree to sexual advances "on the first try."

"Who agrees to do it on the first request anyway? Will the woman allow it? No. 'Don't, no, ahhh.' Nobody agrees to do it on the first try. That is rape."

Rodrigo Duterte
Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte (front L) poses for a selfie with students after a wreath-laying ceremony to commemorate the National Heroes' Day at the Heroes Cemetery in Manila on August 27. TED ALJIBE/AFP/Getty Images