A PRE-DEBUT photo shoot by a granddaughter of President Rodrigo Duterte inside Malacañang Palace, the seat of power in the Philippines, has stirred outrage among Filipinos who described her act as an apparent ostentatious display of power by a member of the strongman’s family.
Isabelle Duterte, daughter of Paolo Duterte, brought some of the country’s top designers, stylists and make-up artists to the presidential palace last week for the photoshoot that went viral but mostly earned her criticism online.
Paolo is the president’s eldest child and vice-mayor of Davao City, the turf of the Dutertes in the southern Philippine island of Mindanao.
In the photos, Isabelle wore a red gown worthy of a fairytale princess. She also wore another gown with cream leaves and a floral printed dress.
Some said the presidential granddaughter’s pictorial inside the palace was reminiscent of the regime of deceased former dictator Ferdinand Marcos whose some family members were known to flaunt the palace as their playground during their reign.
It sparked outrage among netizens who stressed it was contrary to the projected image of the president and his family that they live simple lives.
“People in Marawi are trying to live through the day. Isabelle Duterte at Malacañang Palace, posing in a blood red gown, getting ready to celebrate,” said Bib Macasaet on Twitter.
“The dictator’s granddaughter lives a lavish life while the poor can barely survive. Just like the Marcoses, they are detached from reality.”
The siege on Marawi by Islamic State militants on May 23 prompted Duterte to declare martial law in Mindanao. Over 400,000 civilians were displaced by the five-month war that left the city in shambles.
Recently, Congress approved the extension of martial law in Mindanao until Dec 31, 2018, which critics feared may lead to the nationwide imposition of military rule.
Also castigating Isabelle, Twitter user Fritzie Bayrante noted Malacanang should never be used to self-promote.
“It’s an official government building. Having a pictorial there for your debut, (more so with the) seal (of the office of the) President, is self-promotion… It’s personal, not official government business,” Bayrante said.
Isabelle defended herself from the backlash.
“I hope you do something useful with the freedom you are given, other than making hateful comments and carry so much unnecessary weight on your shoulders. I hope you will find the maturity to focus on more alerting issues (sic) and not on a 17-year-old girl. Try to be useful,” she tweeted.
On Jan 26, she will reportedly turn 18, the age of passage for girls in the Philippines.
Presidential spokesman Harry Roque also defended the president’s granddaughter. “I don’t think it should be an issue. She’s like an ordinary citizen “who can have their pictures taken” in Malacañang, Roque said.
Access, however, to the inner chamber of the presidential palace – as granted to Isabelle – is not easy for ordinary Filipinos due to the protocols and strict security measures imposed by the Presidential Security Group.
Isabelle told her bashers she sought permission for the controversial photoshoot.
“I sent a request in the office for the photoshoot in Malacañang, you can actually do the same. If you wanted to book, contact them. They also have tours inside the palace for free. Or you can message me and we can do it together,” she countered.
One of Isabelle’s controversial photographs was her pose with the flag and seal of the Philippine president in the background. The presidential spokesman claimed she did not violate the law.
Those who condemned the controversial photoshoot, however, cited Executive Order No 310, s. 2004 signed by former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo.
“Except as otherwise provided by law or Presidential issuance, the Coat-of-Arms, Seal, and Flag of the President of the Philippines or of the Vice-President of the Philippines shall be exclusively used to represent the President of the Philippines or the Vice-President of the Philippines, respectively,” it stated.
“Any violation of the provisions of this Executive Order shall be severely dealt with administratively, civilly, and criminally.”