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Speaker’s Davao b-day bash draws power crowd

President Duterte and birthday celebrant Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez receive honorary jerseys from Davao Aguilas football player Phil Younghusband during a birthday celebration at the New Tagum City Hall in Davao del Norte the other night.

MANILA, Philippines — Who’s who in politics, from the north to the south, partied last Friday night with  House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez, who turned 60.

“Here is another fulfilling year of good health, happiness and success. Mr. Speaker, I hope that you are married for the last time,” President Duterte, the guest of honor, said in jest.

Duterte also cited Alvarez’s thoughtful leadership, great vision and sincerity as a lawmaker and public servant who has had a positive impact on the nation. 

“We value your hard work and commitment to your profession and I’m truly grateful to have you as a friend and ally, whom I can count on in achieving our shared vision of uplifting the lives of Filipinos,” the President said.

The President recalled that in the 11th Congress, he was with Alvarez and Quezon City Rep. Feliciano Belmonte Jr., who he described as a valued worker of government. 

Senate President Aquilino Pimentel III, who was said to be at odds with Alvarez, was among those who extended their well-wishes to the Speaker. 

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“I do not have any problem or issue with the Speaker. I wish him well,” said Pimentel who, like Alvarez, flanked the President at a table.

Sen. Gregorio Honasan was the only colleague of Pimentel from the Senate who attended the party.

Chinese Ambassador Zhao Jianhua was among the prominent guests that night.

Puwersa ng Bayaning Atleta party-list Rep. Jericho Jonas Nograles told The STAR that there were easily 180 to 200 House representatives who took turns greeting Alvarez at the Tagum City Hall in Davao del Norte.

Albay 2nd District Rep. Joey Salceda confirmed Nograles’ estimate.

Several government officials were in attendance, including Solicitor General Jose Calida, Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II, Public Works and Highways Secretary Mark Villar and his wife Rep. Emmeline Villar, Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea, Special Assistant to the President Christopher Go, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez, Interior and Local Government officer-in-charge Eduardo Año, presidential spokesman Harry Roque, Presidential Communications Operations Office Secretary Martin Andanar, Ormoc Mayor Richard Gomez and his wife Rep. Lucy Torres.

“I wish him luck, success and I wish he would continue to be more assertive as Speaker of the House,” Tagum Mayor Allan Rellon told The STAR.

Guests were treated to performances of singers Jed Madela, Marco Sison and Radha. Giselle Sanchez and Arnell Ignacio hosted the party. 

Musician and special assistant to the President Ramon Jacinto dished out some rock-and-roll numbers that had the guests dancing and singing.

Meanwhile, Malacañang yesterday allayed criticisms of the Speaker’s birthday bash.

Roque said the big number of guests was “commensurate” to the Speaker’s stature as the fourth highest and most powerful official of the government.

“I can tell you it was a very simple venue,” Roque said, adding that Alvarez “had to invite people in government and more importantly, he had to invite his constituents.”

The President himself has shunned lavish parties and urged his co-workers in government to live modestly.

Duterte and Alvarez received honorary jerseys from Davao Aguilas football player Phil Younghusband.

“There (was) quite a number of individuals but (the party was) very simple, in terms of program and in terms of menu. It was very casual, very laid back affair,” Roque said.

Duterte arrived at around 7 p.m. and left shortly before 11 p.m., Roque said.  – With Christina Mendez

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