CIELITO “Honeylet” Avanceña, common-law wife of President Rodrigo Duterte, attended the United Nations General Assembly luncheon hosted by the First Lady of the United States, Melania Trump.
The Davao businesswoman was spotted in a video posted by the White House during the UN luncheon on Thursday, wherein Mrs. Trump called for the protection of children victims of “drug addition, bullying, poverty, disease, trafficking, illiteracy or hunger.”
Malacañang, however, has yet to give clear details about Avanceña’s trip to New York.
The Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs said Avanceña was invited to attend the side meetings of the UN General Assembly because of her advocacies.
At Friday’s news conference, presidential spokesman Ernesto Abella insisted that Avanceña was on a personal trip to the US on the invitation of Mrs. Trump. He could not say whether taxpayers’ money was used to fund the trip.
“She was invited, she received an invitation to attend an event hosted by the first lady of the United States. She went on a personal…on a personal capacity. As far as I know, it was an event hosted by the first lady for other first ladies,” Abella told reporters.
Avanceña was first spotted in New York, where ABS-CBN reporter Don Tagala chanced upon Duterte’s long-time partner after a Broadway show.
Tagala’s video also showed Avanceña being guarded by members of the Presidential Security Group (PSG).
Avanceña initially told Tagala that she was in the US for the ongoing UN General Assembly, but later said she was merely invited to New York.
Abella claimed to have a photo of Mrs. Trump’s invitation, but responded with “secret” when journalists asked for a copy.
The presidential spokesman also explained Avanceña’s PSG protection. “I suppose she was being given port courtesy. Usually people of a certain stature are also given port courtesy without having to spend for them.”
Also asked about her limousine ride, Abella added, “That could have been provided by the [Philippine] Consulate.”