By Raïssa Robles
Trust a South China Morning Post photographer to spot President Rodrigo Duterte’s partner Cielito “Honeylet” Avanceña shopping at Times Square in Causeway Bay, Hong Kong.
No, she did not have her daughter Kitty with her.
She was seen shopping alone – well, not really alone since she had several well-dressed bodyguards with her.
THIS is quite ironic.
While Duterte was in Hong Kong regaling Filipino workers about his plans and his war on drugs, in another section of the Special Administrative Region, the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Hong Kong, Amnesty International Hong Kong and Hong Kong Journalists Association were holding the 21st Human Rights Press Awards.
Among those given awards were two submissions on Duterte’s drug war. Congratulations to Patricia Evangelista and Carlo Gabuco for their “Impunity Series”. And to our colleagues in FOCAP (Foreign Correspondents Association of the Philippines for their writeup on “Duterte’s War”. Namely the Reuters guys – Andrew R.C. Marshall, Clare Baldwin, Damir Sagolj, John Chalmers, Manny Mogato, Karen Lema, David Lague, Jerome Morales, Ezra Acayan and Erik De Castro.
Our SCMP photographer saw her “window-shopping” at the luxury shoe and bag shop of Jimmy Choo. And inside the store of Salvatore Ferragamo where she stayed “at least 20 minutes”. The sales lady would not tell the photographer what she bought. Even if SCMP photographers can be so persistent.
But the photographer managed to take a candid shot of Ms. Avanceña in black dress and pearls.
Ferragamo bags could cost from P30,000 to P140,000 each.
Tonight her partner will address Filipinos in Hong Kong, most of whom earn the minimum wage of HK$4,310 (around P27,500) a month. By Philippine standards that looks like a lot but by Hong Kong standards, that’s not enough to live by.
Ms. Avanceña is a businesswoman who once worked as a nurse in the United States.
And if Senator Antonio Trillanes is to be believed, her alleged bank accounts showed P187.597 million worth of bank transactions from July 2004 to March 2016. Duterte has denied it but she has not issued any reaction to Trillanes’ allegations. And because she is not married to Duterte, the President need not declare her assets in his Statements of Assets, Liabilities and Net Worth (SALN).
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As I said, SCMP photographers are quite persistent.
I remember the time of the handover of Hong Kong to China my editor phoned and asked me to find out where the last British Governor of Hong Kong Chris Patten would be staying briefly in Manila and when he would be flying out. After chasing a lot of sources I confirmed that he had quietly flown into Manila and was boarding an early morning flight out of Manila.
The Hong Kong photographer managed to take an iconic photo of the last British Governor wearing patent leather shoes with no socks on.
You can read the SCMP article by clicking here.
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I hate to bring this up. But this has to be asked because it sets a precedent for similar relationships. As a partner of a sitting public official, is Ms. Avanceña entitled by law to have bodyguards paid with tax money? If they are not being paid with tax money, then there is no issue.
Recall how the public was enraged when then President Noynoy’s sister, Kris Aquino, hitched a ride on the presidential helicopter a year ago.
Because if she is, where do we now draw the line for other public officials?
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UPDATE: I was just asked on Facebook, what’s wrong with her shopping?
My reply – nothing.
Just as there is also nothing wrong with writing this. I remember a feature on Corazon Aquino soon after she became president. She went to Chinatown herself and bought there some sets of plates, apparently to give away as wedding gifts. Because Honeylet is now in the limelight, people – and that includes the media – are naturally curious what she does with her time.