MANILA– President Rodrigo Duterte’s common law wife Honeylet Avanceña was on a “personal trip” to the United States upon the invitation of First Lady Melania Trump, Malacañang clarified Thursday.
“Madame Cielito Avancena is on a personal trip to NY to attend an event upon the invitation of First Lady of The US, Madame Melania Trump,” said Presidential Spokesperson Ernesto Abella said in a statement.
He however did not mention which event the President’s partner was invited to.
Avanceña was spotted by ABS-CBN North America News Bureau correspondent Don Tagala watching "Miss Saigon" at a theater in New York on Tuesday evening.
She was also seen with a number of security escorts who blocked the ABS-CBN News correspondent from asking more questions.
When asked whether she was invited to annual convention of United Nations (U.N.) General Assembly, she answered in the affirmative.
Foreign Affairs spokesman Robespierre Bolivar would later clarify that while Avanceña was not part of the official Philippine delegation to the UN General Assembly, she was in New York because she was invited to participate in some of the side meetings as part of her advocacy work.
The President, meanwhile, skipped the assembly to attend to the Marawi crisis.
He is being represented to the world body by Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano.
Duterte has decided to lessen foreign travels to deal with the country’s domestic issues, Abella earlier said.
The U.N. and the Duterte administration has many times clashed over the latter's campaign against illegal drugs.
U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein recently expressed concern over drug-related killings in the Philippines, saying the anti-drug campaign's “lack of respect for due process rights of all Filipinos is appalling."
Cayetano hit back and said the commissioner’s remark “severely mischaracterized” the human rights situation in the Philippines.
U.N. Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial, Summary and Arbitrary Executions Agnes Callamard has also been vocal in opposing the government's drug war.
She had sought an official visit to the country to investigate drug-related killings but the Duterte administration has placed conditions on her probe.
In May, Callamard visited Manila to attend an academic conference on drug-related issues and graced the Commission on Human Rights' 30th anniversary celebration.