MANILA – President Rodrigo Duterte was “completely surprised” by Senator Emmanuel “Manny” Pacquiao’s accusation that corruption has worsened under his leadership, according to Malacañang on Tuesday.
When asked about Pacquiao’s new accusation, Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque remarked in a virtual press conference, “I don’t think it was expected. Actually, it was a complete surprise.”
Pacquiao was first all praises for Duterte’s accomplishments, but then became a critic of the current administration, according to Roque, just because the 2022 national and local elections are approaching.
“Kinakailangan kung may reklamo ka, sabihin mo kung anong reklamo niya nang maaksyunan ng Presidente. Otherwise, talagang namumulitika lang daw si Senator Pacquiao (If you have a complaint, say it so the President will be able to take an action. Otherwise, Senator Pacquiao is just politicking),” he said.
Duterte challenged Pacquiao in a pre-recorded Talk to the People to name corrupt government institutions and officials within one week to verify the senator’s assertion that corruption is worsening despite the President’s efforts to remove unethical public officials and employees.
When Duterte learned about Pacquiao’s allegation, and speculations that the legislator is considering running for president in 2022, he issued the challenge.
He stated that if Pacquiao fails to prove his accusation of massive government corruption, he will campaign against him.
Pacquiao is the current president of Duterte’s ruling party, the Partido Demokratiko Pilipino-Lakas ng Bayan (PDP-Laban).
According to Roque, Duterte’s relationship with Pacquiao has turned sour.
“It’s rather obvious that the relationship between the President and Senator Pacquaio is not as cordial as it was,” he said. “Natapon na po ang sabaw (The soup has spilled).”
Despite their apparent feud, Duterte has stated that he will not remove Pacquiao from the PDP-Laban, according to Roque.
“The President realizes na PDP naman po ay talagang halos wala ng miyembro niyan bago siya pumunta diyan. At kinikilala naman po niya na ang PDP ay partido ng mga Pimentel (The President realized that not all members of PDP-Laban are his allies. He acknowledged that the PDP-Laban is a party organized by the Pimentels),” he said.
Pacquiao remains a prexy choice
According to Malacañang, Pacquiao is one of the people Duterte is considering as a possible presidential candidate in 2022.
Roque stated that Duterte’s strained relationship with Pacquiao would not justify the President’s decision to withdraw Pacquiao as a possible standard-bearer for his administration.
“Hindi naman po (That would not be the case) definitely because in the realm of politics – although I’m not a veteran person for politics – anything is possible,” he said.
Roque only expressed disappointment that Pacquiao could not wait for Duterte’s announcement.
“Hindi pa naman pine-preclude ni Presidente na puwede namang ma-endorso pa si Senator Pacquiao pero hindi yata naka-hintay si Senator Pacquiao (The President is not precluding the possible endorsement of Senator Pacquiao. However, it appears that Senator Pacquiao could no longer wait),” he said.
Besides Pacquiao, Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio, Manila City Mayor Francisco “Isko Moreno” Domagoso, former senator Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr., and Senator Christopher Lawrence Go are all potential presidential candidates for Duterte.