MANILA (Reuters) – Philippine leader Rodrigo Duterte was slightly injured in a fall from a motorcycle in the grounds of his residence, aides said on Thursday, but the 74-year-old fan of big bikes was recovering well.
The maverick president’s life-long passion for motorcycles has left him with permanent nerve damage in his neck, and frequent migraines, among numerous ailments that ensure his health and his disappearances from the public eye are often the subject of fervent speculation.
“I would like to assure the nation that the president is safe, in good hands and in good health,” Duterte’s spokesman and legal counsel, Salvador Panelo, told a regular news conference.
Duterte was riding around the presidential palace grounds late on Wednesday and fell off while trying to reach his shoe, causing light bruises and scratches on his elbow and knee, Panelo said.
Christopher “Bong” Go, a senator and Duterte’s closest aide, told reporters the president had fallen while trying to turn the bike around, leaving him with an injured hip.
Duterte’s allies played down concern about his health earlier this month after the firebrand leader told the Filipino community in Russia that he was suffering from a chronic neuromuscular disorder that causes one of his eyelids to droop.
His office routinely dismisses concerns about his health but opponents say the administration is not being open about the extent of his problems, which include back pain, a throat illness and another disease that affects the circulation.
Months after taking office in 2016, Duterte spoke of his sadness at having to forfeit his beloved motorcycles and heed the instructions of his security staff to steer clear of bikes.
He has boasted of having reached speeds of 180 km per hour (112 mph) and of owning a Yamaha, a Honda and a Harley Davidson.
(Reporting by Neil Jerome Morales; Editing by Martin Petty and Paul Tait)