NOVEMBER 26, 2006 (STAR) By Aurea Calica - President Arroyo and her husband, First Gentleman Jose Miguel Arroyo, underwent routine executive check-up together at the St. Luke’s Medical Center beginning yesterday morning. "This is just an executive check-up. There is no cause for concern," Presidential Chief of Staff Michael Defensor said in a radio interview. He said the President simply heeded the advice of her physicians to undergo an executive check-up every year to prevent any ailments.

In a brief medical bulletin, the First Couple’s attending physician, Dr. Juliet Gopez-Cervantes, said "the workups are in progress and so far they are both doing well." Cervantes said the check-up would be finished by lunch time today and the First Couple would be back at the Palace in the afternoon. It was the first time for Mrs. Arroyo to undergo such a check-up. Defensor said there was nothing unusual about Mrs. Arroyo the night before she and her husband went to the hospital. "She only looked tired but she had a very good appetite," he said.

Mrs. Arroyo had dinner Friday night with Prince Andrew, the Duke of York, at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel in Makati City with some friends and members of the diplomatic corps. "We still expect to give directives. They have to be confined because they need to undergo a series of tests. But it’s not as if she’s indisposed and cannot work," Defensor said. He added that there would be no change in Mrs. Arroyo’s schedule. She cut back on her activities after being hospitalized twice this year. "Sometimes she exceeds her limit of activities but she never complained of anything. She has not been sick,"Defensor said.

Mrs. Arroyo, 59, was hospitalized for two days in late June after suffering from diarrhea, which doctors said was triggered by stress that had lowered her resistance to infection. She was back in the hospital a month later because of the flu. Defensor said Mrs. Arroyo had been scheduled to undergo a thorough medical check up later this year because she did not have time for it after her last hospitalization due to a scheduled trip to Europe. He said the President’s schedule had eased up after attending last week’s Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit in Vietnam. Mrs. Arroyo is expected to leave the hospital today, Defensor said.

In an interview with reporters, Cervantes said there was nothing to worry about Mrs. Arroyo’s health and it is not necessary for her to lose weight. As for Mr. Arroyo, Cervantes said while he is also okay, physicians advised him to "trim down" a bit. She said it would be best for him to go on a diet that is low in carbohydrates and fat. Cervantes also said that as far as eating chocolates is concerned, Mrs. Arroyo could continue to do so. "Actually, chocolates have more benefits than harm," she added. Cervantes said Mrs. Arroyo and the First Gentleman, like other adults, should regularly undergo executive check ups. She said test results on the First Couple showed nothing "significant" and they could resume working today. "We’ve been advising her to limit her activities, but knowing the President and how workaholic she is, (it’s not possible)... up to now, in between check ups she’s again working," Cervantes said.

"But I’m sure she knows her limit so there is nothing to worry about. As long as she knows her limit, I think we are just on the right track," she added. Cervantes said they will reveal the results of Mrs. Arroyo’s executive check up in the interest of the general public, but some aspects would still remain confidential. Mrs. Arroyo was earlier reported to be suffering from a liver ailment and this was cited as the reason she was hospitalized twice this year. Mrs. Arroyo and her physicians have denied the reports. She also laughed off reports that she developed the liver ailment because she was an alcoholic. — With AP, AFP

‘GMA as healthy as economy’ By Paolo Romero The Philippine Star 11/27/2006

President Arroyo is as "healthy as the economy" though doctors want her to lose a few pounds, Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita said yesterday. "She even called me up last night to give some instructions and there is really nothing to worry about in connection with her health," Ermita said. Mrs. Arroyo’s personal physician, Juliet Gopez-Cervantes, said the President was originally scheduled to be discharged from St. Luke’s Medical Center (SLMC) at 6 last night after completing a battery of tests. First Gentleman Jose Miguel Arroyo would stay until this morning as he failed to undergo one test. Palace officials, however, said Mrs. Arroyo opted to stay until this morning to get some more rest. Press Secretary Ignacio Bunye said yesterday Mrs. Arroyo was "on a routine checkup and the doctors will issue a routine medical bulletin as she will be back in her daily routine tomorrow." "Let us not make this grist for rumor and speculation," Bunye said.

Cervantes said the President "has completed all the diagnostic procedures and her workups were all unremarkable. Hence, she can go back to Malacañang… and resume her usual activities." She did not impose any restrictions on Mrs. Arroyo’s workload this time. Cervantes had asked the President to slow down after an intestinal ailment in June.

Cervantes described the checkup as "a thorough workup from head to toe" that included "surveillance endoscopy," wherein the upper and lower gastrointestinal tracts are examined, and a colonoscopy, wherein the large intestine is checked. But Cervantes refused to disclose the full details of the checkup upon the request of the First Family. She said that despite the unremarkable test results, the First Couple — especially Mr. Arroyo — must lose weight. She said Mrs. Arroyo, who is a hearty eater, weighs 54 kilos and must shed at least two pounds. Doctors recommend "a decrease in carbohydrates and a little more exercise," according to Cervantes, who stressed that the President’s weight is still within acceptable levels.

As for Mr. Arroyo, Cervantes said it does not take a doctor to see that the First Gentleman is overweight and "that is why we strongly recommended he really has to reduce his weight."

Mrs. Arroyo was rushed to the SLMC in June due to infectious diarrhea. She was again hospitalized a month later due to influenza. Cabinet Secretary Ricardo Saludo said Mrs. Arroyo has given him instructions concerning the Cabinet meeting at the Palace tomorrow, which includes preparations for the Association of Southeast Asian Nations summit in Cebu next month and the government’s anti-poverty programs. Mrs. Arroyo is scheduled to attend the Second Tribuna España-Filipinas Forum at the Hyatt Hotel in Malate, Manila at 10 a.m. today. Officials said that from SLMC, the President will proceed to the Palace for a change of clothes and proceed to the event. Out of line Meanwhile, Palawan Rep. Antonio Alvarez said the opposition is "out of line" in asking Mrs. Arroyo to tell the public the state of her health.Reacting to the opposition’s call for Mrs. Arroyo to come out with a detailed explanation of her latest hospitalization, Alvarez said the President’s critics should take the word of her doctors."The answers are in the medical bulletin and in the statements made by her physicians, so there is nothing more left to explain.

Her physicians are all respected professionals with good reputations established through years of hard work and honesty," he said. He added: "But one thing is sure: the President is sick, and she shares this affliction with the rest of the nation. She and all of us are sick of this endless politicking that even a routine visit to her doctor is being speculated upon."Alvarez said Mrs. Arroyo’s critics should have waited for her doctor’s medical bulletin before firing off their demand for an explanation."What the opposition should have done is send her flowers, bid her good health, say a prayer, things that we Filipinos do if we learn somebody we know is in the hospital. We don’t ask that person to show us the medical charts," he said.He pointed out that the President required hospitalization because "she’s been putting in long hours at the office, a trait that can’t be said of many of her critics.""It was also inevitable for any person pushing 60 to find ailments in his or her body. Many people in their 40s are already taking ‘high-blood’ medication. I bet many of those who don’t like her have been to the hospital more often than she. The only difference is that when she walks in a hospital, it becomes breaking news," he added.

Alvarez belongs to the Kabalikat ng Malayang Pilipino (Kampi), the political party Mrs. Arroyo founded in 1997 when she was senator. Kampi is now led by Interior Secretary Ronaldo Puno.In demanding an official statement on Mrs. Arroyo’s hospitalization, the opposition cited constitutional provisions requiring the President to disclose the state of her health whenever she is hospitalized. The framers of the Constitution included such provisions in view of the fact that the late President Ferdinand Marcos kept the nation guessing about his health for years.When the Marcoses fled Malacañang in February 1986, people who stormed the Palace found dialysis machines in one room, confirming rumors about the late strongman’s ailment. — With Jess Diaz

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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