LENI INVITED, THEN DISINVITED TO MALA­CAÑANG’S ‘VIN D’HON­NEUR’

Philippine Daily Inquirer - - FRONT PAGE - By Leila B. Salaver­ria and Nikko Di­zon @Team_In­quirer

When Pres­i­dent Duterte of­fered a toast to mem­bers of the diplo­matic corps at Wed­nes­day’s vin

d’hon­neur in Mala­cañang, urg­ing “Kanpai, bot­toms up!,” Vice Pres­i­dent Leni Ro­bredo wasn’t around. She re­ceived an in­vi­ta­tion to the event on Dec. 28, but Mala­cañang re­called it on Jan. 4, stat­ing that the guest list was lim­ited. “It is a pre­rog­a­tive of the Palace to in­vite those who they feel is needed to be there,” said Ernesto Abella, Mr. Duterte’s spokesper­son. Manolo Que­zon, a com­mu­ni­ca­tions un­der­sec­re­tary in the Aquino ad­min­is­tra­tion, said that “dis­invit­ing, if it hap­pens, is done qui­etly.”

Us­ing the Ja­panese term for “cheers,” Pres­i­dent Duterte raised a glass of cider, urged “Kanpai, bot­toms up!” to con­tin­ued friend­ships at the tra­di­tional re­cep­tion for diplo­mats to which Vice Pres­i­dent Leni Ro­bredo had been invited but later told not to come.

“You know, in the sub­diplo­matic gath­er­ings, es­pe­cially in Asia, we just say kanpai. It’s al­ways bot­toms up. So be care­ful with this, our Asian broth­ers and sis­ters. When they say kanpai, say, ‘no, just half of the kanpai,’ he said, to chuck­les at his first vin d’hon­neur in Mala­cañang on Wed­nes­day.

“We be­lieve that friends help each other and uti­lize con­struc­tive en­gage­ment to achieve com­mon goals. In truth, we all share the same as­pi­ra­tion of greater peace, progress and pros­per­ity,” the Pres­i­dent said in an ex­change of toasts with Arch­bishop Giuseppe Pinto, the Vat­i­can’s en­voy and dean of the diplo­matic corps.

Ro­bredo’s ab­sence at the re­cep­tion, at­tended by Cabi­net of­fi­cials, was re­ported by her spokesper­son, Ge­orgina Her­nan­dez.

An in­vi­ta­tion to the event was sent on Dec. 28, she said. “On Jan. 4, Mala­cañang called the of­fice to re­tract the in­vi­ta­tion, stat­ing that the guest list was lim­ited.” Was it a diplo­matic faux pas? “It is a pre­rog­a­tive of the Palace to in­vite those who they feel is needed to be there,” said Ernesto Abella, Mr. Duterte’s spokesper­son.

Ro­bredo, one of the out­spo­ken crit­ics of Mr. Duterte’s war against drugs, re­signed as hous­ing sec­re­tary af­ter she was told not to at­tend Cabi­net meet­ings.

She has been ac­cused by Mala­cañang of­fi­cials of plot­ting with the “Yel­low” forces of for­mer Pres­i­dent Benigno Aquino III to oust Mr. Duterte.

“Usu­ally, dis­invit­ing, if it hap­pens, is done qui­etly,” of­fered ManoloQue­zon, a for­mer Aquino com­mu­ni­ca­tions un­der­sec­re­tary.

Ci­vil­ity a ca­su­alty

For­mer Vice Pres­i­dent Je­jo­mar Bi­nay had been invited to Mala­cañang re­cep­tions, even af­ter he had a fall­ing out with Aquino.

“From the first time Pres­i­dents and Vice Pres­i­dents did not come from the same party (Car­los P. Gar­cia and Dios­dado Ma­ca­pa­gal) and when­ever Vice Pres­i­dents have parted ways po­lit­i­cally with Pres­i­dents (Em­manuel Pe­laez from Ma­ca­pa­gal, Fer­nando Lopez from Fer­di­nand Mar­cos, Sal­vador Lau­rel from Co­ra­zon Aquino, Te­ofisto Guing­ona from Glo­ria Ma­ca­pa­gal-Ar­royo), ci­vil­ity be­tween the two high­est of­fi­cials has been a ca­su­alty—from in­vi­ta­tions to sim­ply ap­pear­ing in the same place,” Que­zon said.

“There have been in­stances when a first lady could dis­in­vite peo­ple even af­ter they showed up at Palace events. But nor­mally, petty os­tracism from events would be down­played by both sides and re­stricted to gos­sip,” he said.

Mr. Duterte used the oc­ca­sion to re­new his com­mit­ment to fight “three ba­sic evils”—drugs, cor­rup­tion and crim­i­nal­ity.

Among the am­bas­sadors present were Sung Kim of the United States, Zhao Jian­hua of China and Igor Kho­vaev of Rus­sia.

There was no blast against the United States in Mr. Duterte’s usu­ally ex­ple­tive-laden speech.

He stuck mostly to his pre­pared speech, and only de­vi­ated from it to­ward the end when, af­ter down­ing a glass of cider, he said, “Kanpai!”

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