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Philippines’ Duterte cuts short Japan trip in ‘unbearable pain’

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Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, suffering from “unbearable pain” in his spine after a motorcycle accident, is cutting short a trip to Japan, his spokesman said Tuesday.

The 74-year-old hurt his hip in the crash last week, with his health already the subject of intense speculation following his disclosure earlier this month that he is suffering from an unrelated autoimmune disease.

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A statement from the leader’s spokesman Salvador Panelo said Duterte would leave Japan sooner than planned, having attended the enthronement ceremony of Emperor Naruhito.

“The palace announces that the president will cut short his trip to Japan due to unbearable pain in his spinal column near the pelvic bone,” he said.

Panelo said the pain was “a consequence” of the motorcycle accident that the presidency said Duterte had suffered on the palace grounds.

The leader fell off his vehicle just 10 days after he publicly revealed that he has myasthenia gravis, a condition that could potentially have serious complications.

Questions over his health have swirled since he took office in 2016, with Duterte at times skipping events and meetings or discussing his various ailments in long and rambling speeches.

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He has previously said he used to take fentanyl, a potent opioid painkiller, because of a spinal injury caused by other motorcycle accidents when he was younger.

According to Duterte, his doctor made him stop using fentanyl on learning he was “abusing the drug” by using more than the prescribed patches.

Duterte has also said he suffers from migraines and other illnesses including Buerger’s disease, which is characterised by inflammation of blood vessels, usually due to smoking.

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Duterte will see his neurologist Wednesday after flying back to Manila late Tuesday, while his daughter Sara Duterte Carpio will represent him at the emperor’s banquet late Tuesday, Panelo said.

The Filipino leader attended Naruhito’s enthronement ceremony earlier Tuesday using a cane to help him walk, he added.

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Senator Christopher Go, a former top Duterte aide who accompanied him on the Tokyo trip, earlier released a photo of the president sitting down with his forehead propped up by a cane.

The Philippine constitution requires the handover of power to the vice president if the leader dies or is incapacitated.

However Panelo said Tuesday “the public can rest assured that there is nothing to worry about as regards the physical health and condition of the president”.

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