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Duterte ‘jokes’ about mystery woman ‘Vanessa’

Pia Ranada
Duterte ‘jokes’ about mystery woman ‘Vanessa’

Rene B. Lumawag

The President jokes of a wealthy single woman from Metro Manila who he brings often during foreign trips

Reporters at a chance interview with President Rodrigo Duterte in Hong Kong had to keep asking, “Sir, nagjo-joke ka ba?” (Sir, are you joking?)

Duterte had been giving a tantalizing account of his new relationship with a mystery woman he identified simply as “Vanessa.”

“Vanessa, if the Commission or BIR runs after me, all the truth about Vanessa – but as of now she remains incognito,” said Duterte on Saturday, May 13, right after his meeting with overseas Filipino workers in Hong Kong.

This woman, he at first asserted, is the source of the additional P3 million* ($60,337) he declared in his recent Statement of Assets, Liabilities, and Net Worth (SALN).

Mabait siya (She is kind), and someday I will reveal the truth,” teased the President.

By the end of the interview, Duterte said “Vanessa” providing the P3 million was just a joke. The funds, he said, actually came from excess campaign funds he did not know whom to return to.

But he had given specific details about this supposedly fictional woman.

Is she single? asked reporters.

“Yes, mukhang ayaw niya sabihin kung totoo, kung separated siya or single,” replied Duterte. (Yes, it seems she doesn’t want to tell the truth, if she’s separated or single.)

He also said “Vanessa” is from Metro Manila and that she has been accompanying him during some foreign trips.

“She has been travelling with me every labas (trip abroad),” he said.

For this trip to Hong Kong, however, in which Duterte’s longtime partner Honeylet Avanceña and daughter Veronica were present, “Vanessa” did not come along.

“This time, wala (no). The previous labas ko (In my previous trips abroad), she was always a member of the [delegation],” he said.

Duterte claimed his relationship with “Vanessa” began after the 2016 elections. 

The Philippine President is fond of inserting jokes and innuendo in his public speeches, and has warned media not to take seriously any “outrageous” statements he makes.

Duterte is also fond of women, and has not shied away from expressing admiration for beautiful women, be it a government official or his own security aide. –

*$1 = P49.72

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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