PRESIDENT Duterte sustained minor injuries on Wednesday night after figuring in an accident while driving a motorcycle around the Presidential Security Group (PSG) Park in Manila, but the 74-year-old fan of big bikes is okay, his aides said yesterday.
Chief Presidential Legal Counsel and concurrent presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo said Duterte’s partner, Cielto “Honeylet” Avanceña, told him that the President had some “scratches and bruises” in his elbow and knee, while PSG commander Brig. Gen. Jose Niembra said Duterte had scratches in his right hand which he used to prop himself up to prevent himself from falling along with his motorcycle.
Sen. Christopher Go, Duterte’s former special assistant, said the President experienced some pain in his hip and was resting yesterday at the Bahay ng Pagbabago inside the PSG Park.
Niembra said Duterte did not complain about any pain right after the accident. He also said the PSG has physicians in the compound to look after the President.
“The Palace assures that there is nothing to worry about regarding the President’s condition following news that he figured in a motorcycle accident last night, October 16. While it is true that the President roamed around with his motorcycle, the incident occurred when he has already parked his motorcycle at the compound of the Presidential Security Group,” Panelo said.
“The President was reaching for his shoe when he fell off his motorcycle, that resulted in a minor injury, particularly light bruises and slight scratches, to his elbow and knee… Again, we assure our people that the President is fine, and his recovery entails no major medical procedure,” he added.
Niembra said the President just arrived at the PSG Park at around 11 p.m. Wednesday after attending a wake when he decided to take out his motorcycles.
He said Duterte first tried out a three-wheel motorcycle or “trike,” which hit a piece of rock after he took it out of the garage. After the “initial shock” from hitting the rock, the President drove the trike around the PSG Park and made two runs.
Niembra said Duterte then tried out a 650-cc, two-wheel trike, also for two rounds around the park.
As he was readying to park the motorcycle, he stopped in front of the garage and without alighting from the bike, reached for something on the ground, which resulted in the motorcycle toppling to the ground, Niembra said.
Niembra said Duterte used his hand to break his fall while the PSG members managed to catch the motorcycle and prevented it from toppling.
Duterte was not wearing a helmet when he tried out the two bikes. Niembra said the PSG does not allow the wearing of helmets in the compound to easily identify riders. He said Duterte wears a helmet when he rides motorcycles in public.
He also said the maximum vehicle speed allowed inside the PSG compound is only 30 kilometers per hour, which means that Duterte was not speeding.
Go, in an interview with reporters, said the second motorcycle Duterte rode was quite high and heavy.
“Sobrang taas, sobrang bigat, sumemplang ho siya at… medyo sumakit ang balakang (It was so high, so heavy, he toppled over and his hips are quite in pain),” Go said.
He said Duterte “missed” riding motorcycles.
Duterte is a known motorcycle enthusiast.
Niembra said the President must have missed riding a motorcycle, as he was used to doing in Davao City.
Duterte’s life-long passion for motorcycles has left him with permanent nerve damage in his neck, and frequent migraines, among numerous ailments.
Duterte’s allies played down concern about his health earlier this month after he 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. – With Vince Nonato and Reuters