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At Large

A new low even for PDuts

A few years back, journalist Ellen Tordesillas and I met by chance and, in the course of catching up on each other, I asked how she was. “I’m okay,” she said, “but I have to watch my diet because my cholesterol levels are high and my blood pressure is elevated.”

I was taken aback. “I thought cancer survivors were exempt from such routine problems!” I exclaimed, and Ellen replied with a soft laugh. “No, we aren’t.”

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But, incredibly, neither are people who’ve survived the gauntlet of cancer exempt from presidential scrutiny and… shall we call it cancer-shaming?

In an appearance in a religious show, the President told self-styled evangelist Apollo Quiboloy last week that Tordesillas has been “continually” asking for money for her treatment even if she has been declared cancer-free.

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In a statement, Tordesillas said that she was “shocked” by the deliberate “misinformation” that Mr. Duterte aired, confirming that she no longer has cancer and has been cancer-free for more than a decade.

As for the allegation that she had been asking for money from donors even if “she is still alive until now,” Tordesillas denied the allegations of personal fund-raising, citing her late former employer Jake Macasaet, then publisher of Ang Pahayagang Malaya for which she wrote a column, who had been helping her cover her medical expenses.

Tordesillas also said two senators had written to the Philippine General Hospital (PGH) where she was confined, allotting a portion of their Priority Development Assistance Fund to her confinement, adding that she did not ask them for assistance and neither did any cash pass through her hands. Two other politicians, she said, sent her cash, which she gave to the PGH Medical Foundation which helps indigent patients, and that she sent the receipts to the donors.

Adding insult to injury, Mr. Duterte said in the same show that while others might be praying for Ellen’s recovery, he was praying for something “different” for the journalist, leaving it to viewers to conclude what his fervent wish might be.

The President’s remarks, dripping with malice, were offensive and disturbing and also in violation of health and medical ethics.

There is such a rule, after all, known as “medical confidentiality” that limits access to information discussed between a person and a health care practitioner. “With only a few exceptions,” says a medical website, “anything you discuss with your doctor must, by law, be kept private between the two of you and the organization they work for.”

Mr. Duterte himself has repeatedly cited medical confidentiality whenever the media asks about his state of health. An important difference between him and Ellen is that he is a public official and that his state of health has a huge impact on the performance of his duty and his state of mind. Tordesillas, on the other hand, is a private citizen and is thus entitled to medical confidentiality, unless she chooses to disclose details of her health.

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We all know the reason Mr. Duterte has chosen to “out” Ellen’s status as a cancer survivor, she being one of the main figures in the so-called ouster matrix whose authenticity has yet to be determined. But if we all thought his foul-mouthed diatribes and personal attacks on his enemies couldn’t bring him lower, he has just hit a new nadir for his behavior and his character.

* * *

Just a brief note on the accident that befell veteran actor Eddie Garcia who is now in a coma following a fall when he tripped on a wire on the set of his current telenovela.

Comments have been rife regarding the poor quality of safety and medical care on the set, especially since “Manoy” Eddie is 90 years old and certainly in need of standby care and careful monitoring.

The network behind his show said they are “investigating” the incident, but even before the probe is finished, they should start right now ensuring an emergency medical team and an ambulance, or at least a service vehicle, is on standby in every set in case of mishaps like this.

Thoughts and prayers go to Manoy, though better preparations and compassion would have served him better.

rdavid@inquirer.com.ph

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TAGS: At Large, Ellen Tordesillas, rina jimenez david, Rodrigo Duterte
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