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President's surprise: Duterte gifts January celebrants among Marines P50,000 each

BIRTHDAY SURPRISE. President Rodrigo Duterte gifts Marine troops celebrating their birthdays in January with P50,000 each. Malacau00f1ang photo

BIRTHDAY SURPRISE. President Rodrigo Duterte gifts Marine troops celebrating their birthdays in January with P50,000 each.

Malacau00f1ang photo

Nearly two weeks have gone by into the new year, but at the Philippine Marine Corps, Christmas continues as President Rodrigo Duterte played Santa Claus to soldiers of the Philippine Navy's battalions on Monday night, January 14.

Cutting midway through a speech that recognized the efforts of Marines involved in battling terrorism and insurgency, Duterte went off-script as he asked troops in the crowd to identify those who celebrated their birthdays in January.

"Sinong may birthday ngayon? Sino ba? 'Wag kayong mahiya (Who is celebrating their birthday? Who? Go on, don't be shy)," Duterte said as he directed celebrants to stand before the stage.

One by one, soldiers fell in line before the commander-in-chief, arranging themselves with those whose birthday were on Monday.

Addressing the line of soldiers before him, Duterte then offered the troops a birthday gift: P50,000 each – no questions asked.

"Birthday 'nyo ngayon?.... Okay im going to give you – ibigay niyo ito sa pamilya ninyo ha? Ito para sa birthday 'nyo, pero itong pera na ito hindi pang inom, hindo pang... suntukin ko kayo. Ibigay talaga sa asawa ninyo ah.... Make a count and P50,000," Duterte said.

(It's your birthday? Okay I'm going to give you – give this to your family, okay? This is for your birthdays, this money is not for drinking, not for...or else I'll hit you all. Give this to your spouses.... Make a count and P50,000.)

"I'll give you P50,000 each... Birthday gift ko sa inyo (It's my birthday gift to you)," he added, as soldiers behind looked on at their peers.

"Wala itong speech-speech.... gift-gift nalang natin. Mas mabuti pa," he said. (Never mind this speech, let's just give gifts. It's much better.)

Duterte, after consulting with presidential aide-turned Senator Christopher "Bong" Go, then promised the soldiers they would receive the money by Wednesday, January 15.

Duterte has long sought to boost the morale of the militay, an institution he has been dependent on throughout his presidency. While he earlier increased military personnel's salary and made promises to provide them with health facilities, emergency medical attention, and even scholarships for their children, his latest pronouncement is a first when it comes to publicly offering gifts to soldiers for their birthdays.

Duterte delivered the surprise announcement as he spent time with the Marines on day the Taal Volcano erupted, which he never mentioned in his speech.

Instead, he joked with crowd, asking if he should continue reading his prepared remarks. The gift-giving was soon over a few minutes later, as Duterte picked up where he left off and read out the speech that paid tribute to soldiers killed in the 2017 Marawi siege. – Rappler.com

Sofia Tomacruz

Sofia Tomacruz covers foreign affairs, the overseas Filipino workers, and elections. She also writes stories on the treatment of women and children. Follow her on Twitter @sofiatomacruz. Email her at sofia.tomacruz@rappler.com.

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