Campaign road trip reunites Duterte, ex-wife
CEBU CITY, Philippines—Could they give their love a second chance?
This question surfaced in the minds of observers on Thursday afternoon when presidential candidate Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte attended the birthday celebration of his former wife, Elizabeth Zimmerman-Duterte, here.
Elizabeth, who turned 68 on Thursday, has skipped chemotherapy sessions to lead the Biyaheng Du30 journey, a 30-day parallel campaign in the Visayas and Mindanao for Duterte’s presidential bid.
Duterte’s marriage with Elizabeth was annulled in 1998 and his philandering was cited as one of the reasons.
But Elizabeth, the mother of Duterte’s three children, is in the front line warding off attacks against her former husband.
“There is no truth to the claim that he does not respect women,” she said.
Elizabeth has chosen to keep Duterte’s surname, noting that her marriage with the 71-year-old mayor has never been nullified by the Catholic Church.
They enjoyed 25 years of marriage before the annulment.
Duterte’s rivals have since used his failed marriage and philandering to discredit him in his political career.
Late again, but with roses
At past 3 p.m., Duterte arrived at a restaurant here—two hours late as usual.
But he made up for his tardiness with a birthday cake and a bouquet of red roses for his former wife.
He then gave Elizabeth a kiss amid the loud cheers of his supporters and relatives. Their children Inday Sara, who is running for Davao mayor, and Paolo, who is Davao vice mayor, attended the celebration.
“Good health. And may she live for a thousand years,” Duterte said when asked for his birthday wish for Elizabeth.
When asked if he still loved her, Duterte replied: “Of course, she is the mother of my children.”
Reporters went on and asked if a second chance was possible. “It is happening right now,” he said.
In an interview, Elizabeth defended the mayor from the attacks of his rivals. “When we were together, I knew he loved me, I knew he respected me. It was just that we had differences that we could not resolve,” she said.
Elizabeth was aboard the bus dubbed Biyaheng Du30, which hops from one city after another in the Visayas and Mindanao. It is a simultaneous campaign run by Elizabeth, Sara and other members of the Duterte family.
Elizabeth, who is battling Stage 3 breast cancer, had chosen to skip radiation treatments to join the campaign. “I have to help him, too,” she said.
She said she had earlier sought permission from her doctor to skip chemotherapy treatments for two weeks.
Duterte earlier said his eldest daughter Inday Sara would be his first lady should he win the election on May 9.
Elizabeth said members of their family had put it to a vote and unanimously chose Inday Sara to be the first lady should Duterte win the election.
The mayor has been leading the latest presidential surveys, overtaking Sen. Grace Poe.
Duterte’s common-law wife, Honeylet Avanceña, has been seen with him and their youngest child Veronica in several campaign rallies in Luzon.
Asked about Avanceña joining Duterte in the campaign, Elizabeth said, smiling, “No comment.” TVJ
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