And other personalities
By Raïssa Robles
I’ve just come from the July 4 Independence Day reception of the US Embassy in Manila.
Normally, I don’t attend such affairs. But it was my first time to be invited. And I was curious to see who among the members of President Rodrigo Duterte’s government would show up, considering that Duterte himself had made noises critical of the US government.
I did not see anyone from inside the presidential palace except Presidential Communications Office Secretary Martin Andanar. I had a photo taken with him and opposition Senator Antonio Trillanes. I felt like I was sandwiched between two giants.
Both men were very cordial to each other despite what had happened during the election campaign when Trillanes accused Duterte of having hidden wealth in the form of peso and dollar bank accounts.
I also met the new Armed Forces Chief-of-Staff Lieutenant General Ricardo Visaya.
Out of uniform, he did not look so grim and foreboding. But he exuded toughness. Even his cheeks looked tough. Except when he smiled.
I promised to send him a copy of my book Marcos Martial Law: Never Again.
President Duterte’s Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana was also there, entertaining countless people who wanted to see him and shake his hand.
His stint in Washington as a military attache must have rubbed off on him. He acted more like a diplomat than a former major general.
Foreign Secretary Perfecto Yasay was of course there to give a speech in behalf of the Duterte government. Later I was unable to find him in the throng because he is small like me and his head does not stick out in the crowd.
So was Chinese Ambassador to Manila Zhao Jianhua.
I did find two cabinet secretaries who both looked tired and in need of sleep. Economic Planning Secretary Ernesto Pernia, who told me he felt the need to make a sacrifice and accept the government post.
And Budget Secretary Benjamin Diokno. I congratulated him and told him that I saw him nodding off to sleep at times during the recent forum with businessmen of the cabinet economic cluster. It must be due to the change in his office hours.
Others who were there were retired Brigadier General Resty Aguilar, one of those I interviewed for my book and the current head of veteran affairs.
Congressman Toby Tiangco, who told me he was being considered as the House minority floor leader, Senator Risa Hontiveros who came in red and shook my hand very formally. I also saw the couple Jose “Peping” Cojuangco and his wife Margarita.
There were a few journalists present, among them Philippine Star editor-in-chief Amy Pamintuan, ABS-CBN News and Public Affairs chief Jing Reyes. We three had a photo together but strangely, Jing did not come out in the photo :( .
Manila Mayor and former President Joseph “Erap” Estrada recognized me as one of those who nag him for stories.
And former President Fidel V. Ramos again recalled the time I interviewed him on a flatbed truck while he was campaigning in the 1992 elections.
I’m grinning in this photo because Ramos had startled me with a joke. He told me – “I’m going to tell you something personal.”
Then suddenly he said aloud – “Miss! Bukas ang zipper niyo.”
He then chuckled and said he was only joking as I tried to see if my zipper was really open.
Then I kidded him that I heard he was President Duterte’s adviser.
He said he was no one’s adviser and later added that Duterte still had to prove himself. During Yasay’s speech, Ramos had shouted “Palakpakan” (Let’s clap) when Yasay had mentioned Duterte’s name.
I may be wrong, but I did not see one member of the Duterte cabinet allied with the Left during the reception.
In closing, I’d like to thank US Ambassador Philip Goldberg for inviting me to the July 4 celebration, even though he knows I’m critical of some of US actions toward the Philippines. Except for the absence of the Reds, it was a rainbow gathering.