By JOEY NACALABAN
and CONG B. CORRALES
Associate Editior .
NOW it can be told that President Duterte’s order to bar local politicians from seeing him in the Kauswagan home of former mayor Reuben Canoy during his Feb. 5 visit here had one exemption: Girlie Balaba.
Not only was she exempted. Based on Balaba’s account, it was the President himself who asked her to accompany him that night.
Duterte made a surprise visit to the Canoy home here a few days after the death of the former Cagayan de Oro mayor’s wife Solona.
A photograph of the former ABS-CBN Davao broadcaster that circulated online shows Duterte raising the hand of Balaba, now a candidate for Cagayan de Oro councilor under the PDP-Laban ticket of Mayor Oscar Moreno.
Another photo shows Balaba, who has admitted to be close to the President, striking a pose with Duterte and Canoy.
The former was taken against a backdrop of a place similar to where Duterte raised the hand of Canoy’s daughter Rhona, another candidate for city councilor. Ms. Canoy is a candidate of the Partido Federal ng Pilipinas, the group of ex-councilor Lourdes Darimbang who has withdrawn from the mayoral race.
A video clip posted by Ms. Canoy earlier shows Duterte raising her hand near the staircase of her family’s house. After the hand-raising, Ms. Canoy then thanked the President.
Ms. Canoy posted: “And this is how he [Duterte] said goodbye… unexpected, spontaneous, official.”
But as Balaba’s photographs have shown, Ms. Canoy was not the only candidate for councilor whose hand was raised by Duterte inside the Canoy family’s house in the evening of Feb. 5.
Balaba confirmed that she was with Duterte that night.
“Diri siya sa Cagayan de Oro kay nag pay og respects sa namatay nga asawa ni Sir Reuben Canoy nga si Ma’am Solona. Iya kung gi-request nga ubanan siya,” Balaba said.
She said she and Duterte had known each other way back when she was a television reporter who covered the Davao city hall.
Balaba claimed that it was Duterte who wanted to raise her hand before a group of people. She described it as a rare moment that was the “dream of every politician.”
“If there is one person who can vouch for my integrity, my passion, and my dedication in my job, it would be the President,” Balaba said.
But Balaba said Duterte has openly expressed his support for her candidacy much earlier — when he went to see Councilor Yan Lam Lim and a group of barangay chairmen in a local restaurant. There, Duterte also raised the hand of Lim, a candidate for congressman.
The younger Canoy, meanwhile, confirmed that Balaba was the only local politician outside her family who was in their house in Kauswagan that night, and that the President arrived with the former TV broadcaster.
She recounted that Duterte and Balaba talked with her father Reuben at the dinner table. Ms. Canoy recalled the President and her father were seated side by side while Balaba was across the table.
She said that after about 15 minutes, her father asked her to join them. There, she added, the former Cagayan de Oro mayor told Duterte that she is a candidate for councilor in the first district of the city.
Ms. Canoy said Duterte then said that Balaba is also a candidate for councilor in the city’s 2nd District.
She said that at this time, she and Balaba were both sitting across Duterte and the elder Canoy at the dinner table.
Ms. Canoy said Duterte told them that he would not endorse a complete slate and that he would only “cherrypick” his candidates.
Ms. Canoy said Duterte then raised her hand, and then Balaba’s.