Spokesman: Duterte suffering from muscle spasms but can work

MANILA, Philippines (AP) — A medical checkup showed Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte is suffering from painful muscle spasms that prompted him to cut short a trip to Japan, his spokesman said Thursday.

Duterte was feeling better but was advised by his doctor to rest and take painkillers to relieve him of the discomfort from lower back muscle spasms, which may have been caused or aggravated by an accidental motorcycle fall last week and another similar accident years ago, spokesman Salvador Panelo said. The doctor ruled out the need for any surgical procedure, Panelo said.

Panelo said the president would still meet Chinese Vice Premier Hu Chunhua on Thursday to discuss Chinese financing of infrastructure projects in the Philippines.

"Despite the president's somewhat impaired physical profile, he will continue to perform his presidential duties, which include attending to local and foreign engagements in the following days, with the same passion and dedication, in obedience to the constitutional command to serve and protect the Filipino people," Panelo said.

Duterte's latest health problem went public when he cut short his trip earlier this week to Japan, where he attended Emperor Naruhito's enthronement ceremony in Tokyo but had to skip two banquets, which were attended instead by his daughter, Sara Duterte. Duterte at times used a cane and appeared to be in pain while in Tokyo.

An avid rider of big motorcycles in his younger days, Duterte, 74, sustained bruises and scratches when he fell off his parked motorcycle last week in the sprawling presidential palace complex in Manila, but Panelo said then that the president's minor injuries would not affect his schedule.

Duterte said last year that he suffers from "perpetual pain" due to a spinal injury he sustained in a motorcycle accident years ago. He has also acknowledged using Fentanyl, an opioid used to treat chronic pain that can also be used as a recreational drug.

A lack of regular medical bulletins on the president's health has sparked sporadic speculation about the state of his health, especially when he failed to appear in public for days.

The Philippine Constitution requires that the public be informed of the president's state of health "in case of serious illness."

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