Duterte’s ex-wife expects ‘awkward’ situation at inauguration

Pia Ranada
Duterte’s ex-wife expects ‘awkward’ situation at inauguration
Elizabeth Zimmerman says she feels 'apprehensive' about encountering Duterte's current partner, Honeylet Avanceña, at his inauguration

DAVAO CITY, Philippines – The ex-wife of President-elect Rodrigo Duterte feels “apprehensive” about the inauguration of her husband on June 30.

Elizabeth Zimmerman, Duterte’s wife for 27 years, granted media an interview on the sidelines of a photo exhibit in Davao City on Thursday, June 23. 

Asked what she is expecting from the inauguration, she said, “So many things, maybe some awkward situations.”

She, at first, did not want to elaborate but asked if the situation she meant was a possible encounter with Duterte’s current partner Honeylet Avanceña, Zimmerman said, “Yes, I think so, that’s why. There will be an awkward situation.”

In fact, she is even considering asking the Presidential Management Staff (PMS) to ensure the two are separated during the event, specifically during family picture-taking, and in the seating arrangement.

“Maybe I will ask somebody from the PMS that we go separately, with my children and my grandchildren,” she said.

Duterte’s staff, she said, knows that during events, she prefers an arrangement where she won’t have a close encounter with Avanceña. 

Duterte had said in a press conference that both Zimmerman and Avanceña would be present at his inauguration “if they can stomach each other.”

First Lady?

As to who will get to stand beside Duterte as he takes his oath, she said it’s not an issue for her. She said her main purpose in attending the inauguration is “for the children.”

Her 3 children with Duterte – Paolo, Sara, and Sebastian – are more likely to attend an event if she is present, she said.

Who will become Duterte’s First Lady?

“He doesn’t need a First Lady,” replied Zimmerman.

With the inauguration only a week away, Zimmerman’s gown is already being prepared. 

The pink gown was designed by Davao-based designer Silverio.

“It’s a color symbol for cancer,” said Zimmerman who has Stage 3 breast cancer.

‘Friendly’ with Duterte

With her ex-husband days away from taking his oath as the country’s 16th president, Zimmerman has only goodwill.

She described their relationship as “friendly.”

Rody still asks for her advice at times and gives her gifts on special occasions. He even attended her birthday party which was held smack in the middle of the campaign season.

“He’s a very thoughtful person. He’s taking care of me even up to now. Even when he goes abroad, there’s always something for me,” she said.

The happy memories of their marriage came back to her that day as she walked through the photo exhibit of veteran photojournalist Rene Lumawag. 

Lumawag, who has documented Duterte’s entire political career so far, has taken memorable photos of their family.

Elizabeth’s pleasure at looking at the photos was evident, with her eyes sparkling as she looked at the younger faces of her sons and daughter.

Guwapo si Paolo (Paolo is handsome),” she said with a chuckle to Lumawag who was walking beside her. 

One of her favorite photos was that of their family posing after a motorcycle ride to a Mt Apo viewing area.

She recalled it had been raining then yet Lumawag had insisted on photographing them. 

Zimmerman giddily pointed out a tiny Baste Duterte who was clinging to his father’s back. 

“It’s beautiful, it’s really memories. You can always say there were happy memories,” said Zimmerman. – Rappler.com

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Pia Ranada

Pia Ranada is a senior reporter for Rappler covering Philippine politics and environmental issues. For tips and story suggestions, email her at pia.ranada@rappler.com.