Looking back: Like Miriam, presidential bet Raul Roco had cancer too
MANILA, Philippines – What do Miriam Defensor Santiago and former senator Raul Roco have in common?
The late lawmaker Raul Roco, who celebrated his birthday on Monday, October 26, was in a similar situation as Santiago when he ran for president in the 2004 elections. In Roco's case, it was in the middle of his campaign when health became an issue. For Santiago, she announced her presidential candidacy and declared that her cancer has been arrested.
Santiago's candidacy wasn't welcomed by everyone, as her cancer and overall health condition were seen as obstacles to her becoming an effective president in case she wins.
Some people even doubt she's fit to pursue a presidential campaign. Rappler columnist Sylvia Claudio had asked Santiago in her Thought Leaders piece to release her (Santiago's) own medical records to prove she's been cleared of cancer, which the senator declined.
While Santiago claims to have controlled her lung cancer, Roco battled prostate cancer. Early media reports (Rappler was not yet in existence then) said he first underwent prostate surgery in 1996 for the removal of a malignant prostate gland. After the surgery, the former senator was believed to have recovered.
Roco didn't feel anything wrong when he announced his presidential candidacy in 2003 and when he started campaigning in February 2004. According to a report by the Philippine Star, however, things took a twist when Roco began feeling "chronic pain in the lower back" in March 2004 while campaigning in the Visayas and Mindanao.
He was advised to seek immediate medical treatment to control the pain. By this time, it was speculated that the prostate cancer had recurred, but his camp did not confirm it.
Roco flew to the United States for treatment just 27 days before the May 10 elections. It was his wife Sonia who campaigned for him, along with the whole Alyansa ng Pag-asa team, while he was being treated abroad.
He returned to the country two weeks after to continue with the campaign. In a SunStar report, Roco finally admitted he had benign prostate cancer, but gave assurances it was curable and that he was feeling better.
Another Philippine Star report said, "Roco's health started to deteriorate in April when cancer cells were found to have metastasized in the bones of his lower back. The cells originated from his prostate gland, which was removed in an operation in 1996."
Doubts about Roco's condition
Because of his health condition, doubts were raised as to whether he could pull off his candidacy.
In an opinion piece published while Roco was recuperating abroad, it was suggested that he just withdraw from the race and support another candidate.
In an Inquirer report, former lawmaker Apolinario Lozada attributed Roco's low survey ratings to negative public perception of ailing candidates.
"Ailing politicians are aware they face defeat if the public knows of their affliction," he said. "That is why they never admit they are sick even if they are already dying."
But Roco refused to back out, and managed to return and finish the campaign. "There is no immediate threat to my life and my ability to perform all the functions of public office remains unhindered," he said in a report.
Roco's camp even released a medical bulletin to show he is being treated, and that he was not being evasive about his physical condition.
In the end, however, he landed 4th out of 5 presidential candidates.
He died of prostate cancer in August 2005. – Rappler.com