CEBU, Philippines – Even though he was busy on the campaign trail, presidential candidate and Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte rearranged his schedule to spend lunch with his ex-wife Elizabeth Zimmerman. She was celebrating her 68th birthday, on Thursday, April 14, in Cebu.
Duterte arrived at Rico's Lechon in Lapu-Lapu City around 3 pm. The couple made their first public appearance together since Duterte announced he was running for president.
Duterte had previously appeared at campaign events with his second wife Honeylet Avanceña. (READ: Duterte's common-law wife joins him in campaign events)
Does this mean there's a second chance between the Davao mayor and his first wife? "It's already happening now," Duterte said before quickly sipping his drink and giggling before a crowd of reporters and supporters.
Duterte and Zimmerman were joined by his children Sara, who is running for mayor, and Paolo who is the acting mayor of Davao while his father is campaigning.
If Duterte wins the presidency, would Elizabeth play the role of First Lady? "Inshallah," (Leave it to God in Arabic) Duterte said. "But I don't want to be presumptuous," he added.
He had previously said that he would like his daughter Sara to be First Lady "para walang away."
Sara said in an interview with Rappler, "Dili gyud mandatory ang First Lady (a First Lady is not required)."
She said the role of the First Lady was only created so that the spouse has a contribution. "Ok ra unta to sa akoa kung wala ko nidagan og mayor sa Davao," she said. (But it would've been okay with me if I wasn't running for mayor of Davao.)
Sara, who is running unopposed, said she probably wouldn't be able to manage being First Lady and Davao mayor at the same time. Her suggestion? "Daghan naman nag-volunteer. Siguro, para mahatagan og chance tanan, I suggest, Every month, lahi lahi ang First Lady, or each week." (Many are volunteering [to be First Lady]. Perhaps, to give everyone a chance, I suggest it should be a different First Lady every month, or each week.)
The Bisaya-speaking presidential candidate does not hide the fact he is a womanizer. He has admitted to having 3 girlfriends and a "feisty ex-wife" who "used to beat him up once a week."
For his daughter Sara, his relationship with women is not an issue. "He never denied it. He's admitted everything. Me, as the daughter, I feel that's his personal life. It's not an issue [in becoming president]," Sara told Rappler in a mix of Bisaya and English. But she noted it could be an issue for those who find a candidate's morality an issue.
The couple had their marriage annulled in 1998. Duterte never appeared in court and did not protest Elizabeth’s petition. But he was compelled to undergo a psychological test. The court found no basis for “collusion.”
Elizabeth reacted to Duterte's statement about second chances during the meal: "We've always been friends ever since. We are also married in the church. So in my situation, I'm still married."
Elizabeth is receiving radiation treatment for stage 3 breast cancer. But she said that she wanted to take time off and help campaign with her family.
"I stopped my radiation treatment [for the campaign]. But I did it to help my family, my children," she said.
Elizabeth said her birthday wish was for a succesful campaign for Duterte and for "change to come in our country."
The mother and daughter tandem are traveling the country on the "Biyaheng du30", campaigning in areas that Duterte himself cannot go to in person.
The day before, Elizabeth and Sara were in Liloan town to meet with supporters and pay a courtesy call on Mayor Duke Frasco and his wife Christina Garcia-Frasco.
Duterte shared his birthday wish for his ex-wife: "May she live a thousand years." – Rappler