MANILA - Presidential Spokesman Harry Roque on Monday lashed out at critics who slammed President Rodrigo Duterte for allegedly pretending to be poor during his birthday celebration over the weekend.
President Duterte turned 76 on Sunday and he chose to celebrate it with his family in Davao City.
In a photo shared by his long-time aide Sen. Christopher "Bong" Go, the chief executive was seen blowing out a candle placed on top of a cup of rice.
However, a video that later circulated on social media showed that his dinner table included lechon, a roasted pig usually shared during special occasions.
"I don’t think the President ever pretended to be poor. He has always been known as simple. That is why he did not have guests on his birthday," Roque told ANC's Headstart.
"There may have been food served for special occasions, but that did not violate any sense of decency. There was no extravagant show of wealth because the President was in t-shirt and shorts and celebrated only with his family," he said.
"It’s really crab mentality for anyone to suggest that the President was pretending. No, the President never pretends, he is known for his authenticity. He has simple celebrations and I think that’s what happened on his birthday," he added.
Duterte is "as healthy as any 76 (year-old) person could be" and "continues to discharge the functions of the presidency at a time of the pandemic," said his spokesman.
The President is expected to return to Manila on Monday to welcome the arrival of 1 million doses of the CoronaVac vaccine, developed by Sinovac, which the Philippines bought.