President Duterte delivers his speech before the 261 graduates of the Philippine Military Academy Mabalasik Class of 2019.
The STAR/Andy Zapata Jr.
Palace explains tardiness: 'Sleepy' Duterte 'struggled to be awake' for PMA graduation
( - May 27, 2019 - 4:30pm

MANILA, Philippines — President Rodrigo Duterte “struggled to be awake” after a long night of work, Malacañang said, as it explained the reason why the chief executive was around two hours late for the Philippine Military Academy graduation rites.

"The event at 9 am is also part of the President’s 'sleeping time' as a night person," presidential spokesperson Salvador Panelo explained in a text message. Duterte read and signed papers the night before, Panelo added.

READ: Duterte rape 'jokes' bring laughter at PMA grad rites

As the military’s commander-in-chief, Duterte is obliged to hand out diplomas to cadets during the ceremony. But the president only handed out the diploma of Class Mabalasik 2019 valedictorian Cadet 1st Class Dione Mae Umalla. The Palace said Duterte did this to preserve energy for his speech.

National Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana took over the rest of the program.

The president's mouthpiece added that Duterte is "robust enough" to travel to Japan on Tuesday for an official visit upon the invitation of Prime Minister Abe.

“To the people who wish him to be seriously ill, they will be disappointed,” Panelo said.

READ: Duterte to PMA cadets: Secure Philippine sovereignty

Last May 19, rumors have swirled that the president was confined at Cardinal Santos Medical Center in San Juan, the same hospital where he underwent endoscopy last year.

That same day, the president's camp released photos of him holding that day's newspaper to dispel rumors that he is sick and confined in a hospital. — Marie Ancla

READ: Duterte asks Robredo: Why don't you smile at me?

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