MANILA, Philippines – With no less than President Rodrigo Duterte in attendance, Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte threw a big bash for Hugpong ng Pagbabago (HNP) candidates and allies on Monday, June 24.
Held at the upscale Manila Peninsula Hotel in Makati, the party was dubbed a "Thanksgiving Dinner."
Sara, looking regal in an emerald dress, welcomed both winning and losing HNP national and local candidates.
Spotted were incoming senators Ronald dela Rosa, Bong Revilla, Imee Marcos, Bong Go, Cynthia Villar, Sonny Angara, Pia Cayetano, and Francis Tolentino. Also present were former reporter Jiggy Manicad and Maguindanao Representative Dong Mangudadatu, HNP senatorial bets who were unable to score victories last May.
With Sara's help, Duterte secured triumphs for senatorial candidates supportive of his policies. Nine out HNPs 13 senatorial candidates won last May. The father-daughter tandem managed to shut out opposition candidates from the Senate, a feat last accomplished 80 years ago during the presidency of Manuel Quezon.
Local politicians like new Cebu Governor Gwen Garcia, her daughter Liloan Mayor Christina Frasco, Batangas Governor Hermilando Mandanas, Pampanga Governor Lilia Pineda, and more also came in their finest to support Sara and HNP.
House Speaker Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, who hosted Sara and HNP senatorial bets several times in Pampanga, arrived with Pineda, wearing a black sleeveless dress.
Former cabinet secretary Leoncio Evasco Jr, who failed in his bid for the Bohol gubernatorial post, was one of the early birds, and was seen chatting with Mandanas. Also present was Duterte family friend and presidential campaign donor Tonyboy Floirendo who also failed to get reelected as Davao del Norte 2nd District representative.
Speaker race optics
In what has come to be expected in major political gatherings where President Duterte is present, the HNP party became an opportunity to score good optics for those hoping to be named House Speaker.
Three hopefuls – incoming Taguig City Representative Alan Peter Cayetano, Marinduque Representative Lord Allan Velasco, and Leyte 1st District Representative Martin Romualdez – all made sure to sit in Duterte's table at one point in the night.
They gamely posed for photos taken by media – pictures aimed to project their close ties with the President on whose endorsement the Speakership depends. Duterte is set to announce his choice for speaker by June 28.
Some of those originally intended to sit at the presidential table had to relinquish their seats, at least for a while, so the Speaker hopefuls could be near Duterte.
Incoming senators Go and Dela Rosa were seen standing around the table even though they had reserved seats beside the President. Rappler saw the names taped to the chairs before guests began to arrive.
Cayetano's presence at the HNP bash was interesting given Sara's previous claims that he made a "veiled threat" to her should she decide to support Velasco's speakership bid. But the Cayetanos had hosted HNP candidates in Taguig during the campaign period.
A party isn't a party without song and dance numbers. Actress and comedian Giselle Sanchez served as host and belted out some songs.
The politicians themselves took to the spotlight. Sara and Imee Marcos sang "Eye of the Tiger" onstage. President Duterte, himself a fan of karaoke performances, sang songs with Sara onstage.
He dedicated "Wind Beneath My Wings" to his ex-wife, Sara's mother Elizabeth Zimmerman.
Sara, not to be one-upped by her father, belted out the rock song "Bed of Roses" by Bon Jovi. – Rappler.com
Pia Ranada covers the Office of the President and Bangsamoro regional issues for Rappler. While helping out with desk duties, she also watches the environment sector and the local government of Quezon City. For tips or story suggestions, you can reach her at email@example.com.