MANILA – President Rodrigo Duterte was “completely surprised” about Senator Emmanuel “Manny” Pacquiao’s claim that corruption exacerbates under his watch, Malacañang said on Tuesday.
“I don’t think it was expected,” Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said in a virtual presser when asked to react to Pacquiao’s fresh claim. “Actually, it was a complete surprise.”
Roque said it was disappointing that Pacquiao was initially all praises for Duterte’s accomplishment and later became a critic of the current administration just because the 2022 national and local elections are drawing near.
“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.
In a pre-recorded Talk to the People, Duterte challenged Pacquiao to name corrupt government agencies and officials within one week to prove the senator’s claim that corruption is getting worse despite the President’s efforts to get rid of unscrupulous public officials and employees.
Duterte made the challenge when he learned about Pacquiao’s claim and amid reports that the lawmaker is considering running for president in 2022.
He said he will campaign against Pacquiao if the latter fails to prove his claim of rampant corruption in government.
Pacquiao is the current president of the Partido Demokratiko Pilipino-Lakas ng Bayan (PDP-Laban), the ruling party Duterte chairs.
Roque said it is now obvious that 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 the apparent tiff between the two, Duterte would not make a move to take Pacquiao out of PDP-Laban, Roque said.
“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 still a prexy choice
Pacquiao is among the personalities that Duterte considers as potential contenders for the 2022 presidential race, Malacañang earlier revealed.
Roque said Duterte’s strained ties with Pacquiao would not be a reason for the President to remove Pacquiao as the possible standard-bearer of 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 merely lamented 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.
Apart from Pacquiao, Duterte’s possible presidential candidates include Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio, Manila City Mayor Francisco “Isko Moreno” Domagoso, former senator Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr., and Senator Christopher Lawrence Go. (PNA)