Among PCUP execs fired: Honeylet Avanceña’s ‘cousin’

Pia Ranada
Among PCUP execs fired: Honeylet Avanceña’s ‘cousin’
PCUP Commissioner Melissa Aradanas and other relatives have dinner with Honeylet and President Rodrigo Duterte in their Manila residence before the President announces his decision to 'fire' an entire commission

For many, President Rodrigo Duterte’s decision to fire all top officials of the Presidential Commission for the Urban Poor (PCUP) came out of nowhere. 

In fact, among the officials now without a government post is a relative of none other than Honeylet Avanceña, Duterte’s partner. 

PCUP Commissioner Melissa Avanceña Aradanas is supposedly a cousin of the President’s partner and “First Lady”. Duterte himself referred to her as Honeylet’s cousin in a speech at the Malacañang Press Corps Christmas party on Tuesday, December 12.

Pati siya tinanggal ko (I fired even her), but I told my wife, ‘You call your cousin and say, alis sila (they have to leave),’” said Duterte.

Sources say Aradanas has not hidden this connection, even mentioning it to those she works with.

Such close ties could be one reason Aradanas was even able to visit the President’s residence in Manila, Bahay Pangarap, in the week of December 4.

The intimate get-together with other Aradanases and Duterte’s staff supposedly took place on Thursday, December 7.

Melvyn Aradanas even posted a photo of him and Melissa with Duterte and Avanceña.

Interestingly, it was the day after, Friday, December 8, when Duterte announced he would “fire” an entire commission. Coincidence or not? 

There are suspicions that Aradanas had mentioned inner workings of the PCUP to Duterte during the gathering, information which eventually led the President to fire its executives.

Another piece of information indicates Duterte was told of PCUP “irregularities” informally. A Malacañang source says the Office of the Executive Secretary did not receive a formal complaint about PCUP.

But Duterte himself told Rappler that he got wind of PCUP irregularities through reports made to the 8888 complaint hotline set up by Malacañang.

Aradanas is a longtime rank-and-file PCUP employee but gained commissioner status when she was appointed to the post by Duterte. This was no joke as it would entail a significant salary raise – from around P18,000 to roughly P100,000.

It was supposedly Aradanas who had questioned PCUP chairman Terry Ridon’s alleged practice of calling en banc sessions only for policy-making decisions and not for day-to-day operational matters.

Ridon had called two en banc sessions: one in April, and another in November.

The two executive orders on the PCUP – EO 82 by Corazon Aquino and EO 69 by Benigno Aquino III – are silent on when en banc sessions are to be called.

Ridon has also supposedly gone on 6 to 8 official foreign trips, all of which had travel authority documents approved by Duterte. 

In many, if not all of these trips, Ridon was accompanied by officials from other departments, like the National Housing Authority, Office of the Cabinet Secretary, and Office of the Executive Secretary.

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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