Fighting senator Emmanuel ‘Manny’ Pacquiao.
By Tracy Cabrera
MANILA — With the national elections just a year away, political spin masters are apparently trying to pit two of the country’s most popular leaders against each other in a bid to discredit one over the other or measure who will be favored by voters if they join the presidential derby next year.
Certain issues have come to the fore, wherein the views of fighting senator Emmanuel ‘Manny’ Pacquiao contradicts that of President Rodrigo Duterte, and the most controversial being that of the row between the Philippines and China over the presence of Chinese militia vessels inside the country’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ) in the West Philippine Sea (WPS) as well as the slow delivery of vaccine supplies to the country and several other concerns in the government’s overall response to the coronavirus pandemic.
The senator has actually written no less than United States president Joseph Biden and in his letter, the People’s Champ had requested the US chief executive to expedite a least half of the 20 million vaccines that the Philippines had acquired from American drug-maker Moderna.
The request earned a diplomatic reply from the US Embassy’s chargé de affairs John Law, who assured the senator (and the Philippines) of America’s continued commitment and assistance to the Philippines.
Sen. Pacquiao revealed that he and Philippine ambassador to the US Jose Manuel Romualdez had talked about the said letter: “Yes, nagusap naman kami. Sabi ko puwede sumulat din through you (Amb. Romualdez), sa US, sa White House, para idaan ko lang sa iyo. Siguro naman kilala din ako diyan sa US . . . We do our best na baka makatulong, mapagbigyan na mas mapaaga iyong vaccines.”
In line with this, Pacquaio’s letter to Chinese ambassador to the Philippines Huang Xilian was also discussed. This was about the former Sarangani representative’s growing concern on the continuous stay of some 220 Chinese vessels in the area near the Julian Felipe or Whitsun Reef .
Pacquiao confirmed that the diplomat replied through an informal text message to PDP Laban executive director Ron Munsayac: “Hoping that our differences will not affect our exchanges in cooperation.”
He read a portion of the ambassador’s message and he made it clear that he just aims to claim what is rightfully ours: “Manindigan tayo kasi hindi naman (tayo) nangaapak ng ibang tao. Ang sa atin ay pakikipagkaibigan, hindi tayo naghahanap ng gulo. Pero pag tayo’y inaapakan, hindi naman tayo natutulog sa pansitan na hindi na aalma.”
Pacquiao likewise agreed with Duterte that China is considered as a friend: “Kaibigan ko iyong China, mga Chinese people . . . Kaibigan natin iyong Chinese ambassador . . . Gusto natin makipagkaibigan . . . Pero respetuhin (at igalang) din ang karapatan natin.”
When asked about his alleged plan to run for president, the boxing icon replied: “Alam n’yo, hindi dapat pulitika ang pinag-uusapan ngayon dahil ang dami-dami ng problema sa bansa natin.”
“Iyong sulat ko na lang sa China, bago sila nag-file sa Senate pero nauna na ako sumulat sa ambassador dahil ginagawa ko na iyong dapat kong gawin as a public servant. Iyong effort ko hindi na dapat papaalam sa taong bayan na susulat ako. Ang gusto ko makatulong talaga sa ating bansa,” he added.
Pacquiao also touched the issue regarding pork importation and reducing taxes on it, which Duterte had pushed as a solution to the problem of skyrocketing prices of meat products in the country and he enthused that the tariff cuts on imported pork are slowly killing hog raisers.
“Lowering the tax for imported pork at 5 percent is too much. It is killing the local hog raisers and should be reverted to 40 percent as soon as possible. Alam n’yo parang pinapatay natin ang local (hog raisers) natin. Masyadong pinapaboran natin ang ating importer,” Pacquiao expressed disagreement, saying that a compromise must be made to protect local hog industry while ensuring a stable pork supply.
Finally, the eight-division world champion acknowledged the need for National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) chief LT. Gen. Antonio Parlade to be more discerning in making pronouncements with regards to the alleged involvement of certain individuals in the communist movement.
Pacquiao explained that instead of making public half-baked statements tagging certain individuals as communist insurgents, the NTF-ELCAC chief should strengthen his department’s intelligence-gathering capabilities in order to build solid cases against those who have been ‘red-tagged.’
“Delikado talaga na parang namumuhay tayo sa isang bansang hindi na demokrasya..isa lang panawagan ko kay Parlade na suriin mabuti at huwag magpapadala sa udyok ng ibang mga pulitiko d’yan o ibang officials na may vested interest,” Pacquiao concluded. (AI/MTVN)