Crotch groping: Palace defends Duterte

Alexis Romero, Edith Regalado (The Philippine Star) - March 30, 2021 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — Malacañang yesterday defended President Duterte from critics who accused him of deceiving the public about his birthday celebration and called him out for trying to grope a female helper.

Some supporters of Duterte shared photos of him having noodles and a cup of rice shaped like a mini cake on social media last weekend, saying the President had a simple birthday lunch.

However, a number of social media users accused Duterte of lying after a video surfaced showing that lechon or roast pig and other dishes were also served.

The President drew more flak after a video showed him playfully trying to grab the crotch of a female helper who brought him a cupcake with a candle.

Presidential spokesman Harry Roque insisted that Duterte’s birthday celebration was simple and there was no malice in the President’s action.

“What kind of celebration do you want for the President? Only the immediate families and helpers were present during that celebration,” Roque said at a press briefing.

“With regard to what you refer to as groping, she has been a helper for a long time.

You know, the President can be playful and there is no malice there because Ma’am Honeylet was present,” he added, referring to Duterte’s longtime partner Cielito Avanceña.

Roque insisted that Duterte is not extravagant and that a birthday should be celebrated because it is “the most important gift from God.”

“Nobody can claim that the President is extravagant... In fact I am sad that in my two-year service here, I have not experienced even a single vin d’honneur (formal reception). I have not experienced a lavish gathering here in Malacañang.

There is no issue in the very simple celebration of the birthday of the President,” the Palace spokesman said.

Asked if he was OK with Duterte’s type of “joke,” Roque replied: “If there’s somebody who should file a complaint, it should be the household helper.”

He said the President has no control over the comments of his critics and that their tirades are expected.

“Whether what happened was right or wrong, the context is the close relationship with the President.

He was joking during his birthday and there’s nothing wrong with that. But of course, regardless of what is true, the critics of the President won’t stop. So that’s the way it is. It’s not bad (to criticize), it’s not wrong, but that’s expected of them,” he added.

Duterte has been accused of being a misogynist because of his previous remarks about womanizing and rape that the Commission on Human Rights views as a form of violence against women.

Officials have denied this, saying Duterte even supported measures promoting the rights of women like the laws on expanded maternity leave and the nutrition of mothers and their children and reproductive health programs.

Meanwhile, Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio wished her father good health and happiness on his 76th birthday last Sunday.

“Belated happy birthday, President Duterte. We wish you good health and happiness. The lechon did not reach us,” she said.

Long-time close aide and Sen. Bong Go said the lechon was actually for Duterte’s grandchildren and househelpers.

The mayor said she did not go to her father’s house for his birthday because there was no food for the celebration, unlike when he was still city mayor when so much food was on the table.

Duterte-Carpio said she missed the ‘humba’ (sweet braised pork dish) that was always previously served on her father’s birthday.

“Somebody told me there was no food there, so I did not go to his house anymore. I just missed the humba,” she said.

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