Honeylet as ‘First Lady’ or ‘partner’? Palace comms confused too

Pia Ranada
Honeylet as ‘First Lady’ or ‘partner’? Palace comms confused too


The Palace communications team amends a photo caption that identifies Honeylet Avanceña as Duterte's First Lady, and uses the term 'longtime partner' instead

Honeylet Avanceña, President Rodrigo Duterte’s partner, has been playing the role of First Lady so often in the past few weeks that even Palace photographers and transmitters assumed it was her official title.

In an emailed photo release, the Presidential Communications Operations Office Content and Messaging division used “First Lady” to refer to Avanceña in captions of pictures showing her and daughter Veronica visiting a hospital in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. (READ: IN PHOTOS: Honeylet, Kitty in Phnom Penh)

“While President Rodrigo Roa Duterte is attending the World Economic Forum (WEF) on the (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) ASEAN 2017 at the Sokha Hotel, in Phnom Penh, Cambodia on May 11, 2017, his First Lady Honeylet and their daughter Veronica take time to show their compassion to the ailing children of the Kantha Bopha IV Children’s Hospital,” reads the caption sent on Friday morning, May 12.

After a Palace official had been alerted about this first time use of “First Lady” as Avanceña’s title in an official Palace release, another email was sent after lunchtime informing media of an amended caption.

In the new caption, “First Lady” was dropped and replaced with the term “longtime partner.”

“PRRD’s Longtime Partner Honeylet and Veronica Visits Kantha Bopha IV Children’s Hospital in Phnom Penh, Cambodia,” reads the email title. 

It’s no surprise even Palace photographers, who are the first to suggest captions for their photos, thought Honeylet is Duterte’s First Lady.

Since the start of the year, she has been assuming First Lady duties. During the back-to-back state visits of Brunei Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah and Indonesian President Joko Widodo, Avanceña was beside Duterte during the state banquets and even sat in the presidential table alongside the visiting leaders.

She caught the public’s eye again when she and Duterte held hands on the red carpet a few minutes before welcoming Southeast Asian leaders to the Association of Southeast Asian Nations Summit on April 29.

 In the same day, Honeylet hosted a tour for spouses of the leaders at the National Museum, again, a duty traditionally placed upon the shoulders of a First Lady.

When Duterte flew to Cambodia to attend a World Economic Forum event, both Honeylet and Veronica were with him. It was the first overseas trip where she appeared at Duterte’s side as he was welcomed by Cambodian officials at the airport.

With Honeylet taking on a more public role as Duterte’s partner, she appears to many as a First Lady in all but name. 

Duterte himself has never announced Honeylet as his First Lady. But her participation during the ASEAN Summit, Cambodia, Hong Kong, and China trips were at his request. – 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.