MANILA, Philippines – Lawmakers closest to President Rodrigo Duterte threw an "intimate dinner" for him at Malacañang Palace as a way to belatedly celebrate his 72nd birthday.
Marinduque Representative Lord Allan Velasco said he and his wife Wen, chairperson of the Pilipinong May Puso Foundation, organized the party in honor of the President at the Malago Lounge, Malacañang Park on Saturday evening, April 8.
The Velascos are close to the President because they supported his presidential campaign. The Duterte family even spent their Christmas last year with the Velascos. (READ: IN PHOTOS: Duterte's simple Christmas Eve celebration)
"Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez and Majority Leader Rudy Fariñas with several congressmen, LGU (local government unit) officials, and well-wishers of PRRD took the opportunity, before the observance of Holy Week, to greet the President good health and show their support for his continuing campaign against drugs and crime," Velasco told Rappler in a text message on Sunday, April 9.
"The gathering was a simple celebration of friendship and a common love for the country," added Velasco.
Also present during the party were Special Assistant to the President Bong Go and actor Robin Padilla, a staunch supporter of Duterte.
Photo from Dy
Photo from Dy
The birthday party was attended by around 50 guests, who were served a Japanese-inspired, 7-course dinner.
The President was pictured giving a speech after blowing his birthday cake bearing the symbol of the Office of the President and the words "Happy birthday, PRRD."
Screengrab from Velasco's Instagram account
Lawmakers who attended the party, including Velasco, Bagong Henerasyon Representative Bernadette Herrera-Dy, and CIBAC Representative Sherwin Tugna clarified they did not receive any marching orders from the President.
"Nagpasalamat lang siya. Saka nagsabi siya katulad nung mga messages niya of late [in public] tungkol sa pagkakaalis kay [former interior secretary Ismael] Sueno, 'yung war against drugs," said Tugna.
(He said thanks. And he also mentioned his messages like the ones he delivered of late in public about the firing of former interior secretary Ismauel Sueno and about the war against drugs.)
According to Dy, Duterte also reiterated in his speech how he's "dead serious" about stamping out drugs and criminality.
"But he didn't ask us for anything… It's really a group of friends who came together. No agenda last night. It was just a dinner with the President," said Dy.
Photo from Dy
Duterte also sang his favorite song "Ikaw" during the birthday celebration.
The President enjoys wide support at the House, with at least 267 out of 293 lawmakers allied with the ruling Partido Demokratiko Pilipino-Lakas ng Bayan (PDP-Laban).