Presidential hopeful Tony Tan has refuted "false rumours" online that he planned for his son to do medical research so that he could escape national service (NS).
In a statement on his Facebook page on Friday night, he said he was "deeply disappointed" by what was being alleged online, and that he is confident that Singaporeans are "savvy enough" to make their minds up based on solid facts.
Dr Tan explained that after finishing Basic Military Training and the first three months of his Officer Cadet Course, his son, Patrick Tan, stopped his training to start his medical studies.
The Ministry of Defence (Mindef) allows full-time national servicemen (NSFs) to disrupt their training obtain their medical degrees before serving out the rest of their NS.
The younger Tan said in another statement published on his father's Facebook page: "It seems clear that such rumours are intended to hurt my father, which makes it all the more painful for me."
After graduating from Stanford with a joint medical degree and PhD in 2000, Patrick, a President's Scholar, returned to Singapore and continued NS as a defence medical scientist.
Wondering why Patrick was allowed serve NS as a research scientist instead of the usual medical officer, many netizens have also claimed that he received special treatment because his father was the defence minister.
Dr Tony Tan was Singapore's defence minister between 1995 and 2003.
According to The Straits Times, Mindef said Patrick's posting as a defence medical scientist was done "according to vocational guidelines".
As a medical research scientist, he did work on melioidosis, a serious infectious disease caused by soil-borne bacteria, which according to Patrick "was a serious concern to Mindef" as it affected soldiers in the field.
The younger Tan told ST that in one outbreak in Singapore 2004, 15 people died from it.
After fulfilling all requirements of NS, he completed his full-time NS on June 19, 2002. He is now a faculty member at the Duke-NUS Graduate Medical School and the Cancer Science Institute of Singapore.