By: Delfin T. Mallari Jr. – @inquirerdotnet
Source: Philippine Daily Inquirer » / 07:27 AM July 26, 2017
LUCENA CITY — Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) founder Jose Maria Sison has denied President Rodrigo Duterte’s claim that he has cancer and challenged Mr. Duterte to disclose his true health condition to the Filipino people.
Speaking about his frustrations in peace talks with the communist rebels in a policy speech to a joint session of Congress on Monday, Mr. Duterte said Sison was an old man who was suffering from colon cancer.
From Utrecht in The Netherlands, where he lives in exile, Sison issued a statement saying he was in “good health” and that the cancer was only in Mr. Duterte’s “imagination.”
The National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP), the political arm of the local communist movement, said Mr. Duterte’s claim that Sison had colon cancer was a “malicious invention.”
Fidel Agcaoili, head of the NDFP peace panel, said it was a rumor fabricated to derail efforts to restart the negotiations, from which the government has withdrawn after a series of attacks on government forces by the armed wing of the communist movement, the New People’s Army (NPA).
“The issue that Sison has colon cancer is just an invention, just like how they invented the rumor that he has brain cancer,” Agcaoili said.
Sison said Mr. Duterte’s claim was a “blatant lie.”
“It is Duterte who has to explain his disappearances for medical reasons because the public is entitled to know everything that pertains to his suitability for public office,” Sison said.
Mr. Duterte dropped out of public sight for days twice last month. Responding to inquiries from the press, Malacañang said Mr. Duterte was “just resting.”
When he reappeared, Mr. Duterte denied he went on medical leave.
He said, however, that he traveled “incognito” with a close aide, presumably presidential special assistant Christopher Go, to an undisclosed place in Mindanao.
Sison, 78, admitted that he was confined for a month in the rheumatology department of Utrecht University Medical Center for treatment of “rheumatoid arthritis and skin allergy.”
He said he was also treated for loss of appetite that stemmed from low autoimmunity caused by cold weather during autumn and winter.
“No findings of cancer of any kind, cardiac problem or any other malignancy [that] is life-threatening,” Sison said.
He said he had symptoms of Sweet Syndrome: lack of appetite, loss of weight, itchiness of the skin, pain in the joints.
“But not the most serious symptoms like leukemia and other kinds of blood disorder,” he said.
“Duterte is too personal,” he added.
Sison said his age or physical condition was not a public issue.
“Mr. Duterte himself is an old man at 72. I am only six years older than [he]. So what is the public issue?” he said.
Sison claimed that he was physically and mentally strong and “trying hard” as NDFP chief political consultant to help move the peace negotiations that had been “scuttled by Duterte.”
He criticized Mr. Duterte for saying that talking with the communist rebels was “a waste of time.”
“It is because he is really not interested in peace negotiations concerning social, economic and political reforms to lay the basis for a just and lasting peace,” Sison said.
“He is interested only in demanding the surrender of the revolutionary movement through a protracted and indefinite ceasefire ahead of any comprehensive agreement on reforms,” he added.
“He admits being a liar when he says he likes to become the first leftist President of the Philippines. Words pour out of Duterte so cheaply,” he said.
Sison said he appreciated Mr. Duterte’s admission that he was a bully.
“He frankly admits that his job or duty is merely to bully and kill what he calls the enemies of the state,” he said.
Sison warned his former student “to be on guard against his tendency and personal temperament to violate the human rights of his political rivals, critics and the poor people suspected of being drug addicts and pushers.”
Mr. Duterte, he said, should also not belittle the strength of the NPA.
“They will outlast him and grow even stronger in the years ahead,” he said.
Sison said dictator Ferdinand Marcos tried to end the communist insurgency during martial law in the 1970s.
“Instead, the revolutionary forces grew in strength and spread nationwide,” he said. —With reports from Nikko Dizon and Karlos Manlupig