Pacquiao denies ‘attacking’ Duterte, says trying to help with anti-corruption drive

Bella Perez-Rubio - Philstar.com
Pacquiao denies �attacking� Duterte, says trying to help with anti-corruption drive
Sen. Manny Pacquiao, defending Senate Bill No. (SBN) 2077 or An Act Creating the Philippine Boxing and Combat Sports Commission, reiterates his appeal to colleagues to support the measure Wednesday, May 26, 2021.
Albert Calvelo / Senate PRIB

MANILA, Philippines — Sen. Manny Pacquiao on Thursday said his efforts to assist in President Rodrigo Duterte's drive against corruption are being misinterpreted as verbal attacks on the chief executive.  

Pacquiao, a close administration ally and acting president of the ruling PDP-Laban, has fielded criticism from his own party mates in recent days over his comments on corruption in government. 

"I'm not attacking the president," Pacquiao told ABS-CBN's Teleradyo in an interview conducted mostly in Filipino. "Maybe their perception is wrong but I'm hinting to the president because his advocacy is corruption and I am [helping him]."

Accepting a challenge from Duterte to name corrupt officials and agencies, Pacquiao on Tuesday revived corruption allegations against Health Secretary Duque III and his department, specifically calling into question the procurement of rapid test kits, [personal protective equipment], and masks.

Duque has denied the allegations and told ANC's "Headstart" Thursday that he submitted the DOH's fund utilization report to Pacquiao's office for Bayanihan 1 and 2. 

But Pacquiao insisted that the evidence he has against DOH is "black and white" and involves transactions within the agency. 

"We have evidence on the DOH, not only the DOH but other departments too...I'll submit it all, I'm just saving them first," he said. 

Pacquiao added that he has been receiving reports of corruption in varying agencies for a long time but did not want to insult Duterte, also PDP-Laban chairman, by publicizing them. 

"[T]he president challenged me to prove it. So this is my opportunity to work with the president," he said. 

The verbal bout over corruption is only the latest development in a months-long conflict among PDP-Laban leadership.

RELATED: Duterte disses Pacquiao’s foreign policy knowledge amid PDP-Laban squabblePDP-Laban rift continues: Pacquiao hits Cusi over Luzon blackouts

Members of his party have urged Duterte to seek the vice presidency in 2022 and choose his own running mate. On Monday night, the chief executive said he cannot work with someone who opposes him, adding that Pacquiao should have come to him directly to raise his concerns over corruption in government.

Despite this, the Palace has maintained that Duterte may still back Pacquiao who is expected to seek the presidency in 2022. 

Senators weigh in 

Senate President Vicente Sotto III earlier Thursday questioned the ire drawn by Pacquiao's corruption allegations, none of which are new and have been raised by several members of the upper chamber in the past. 

"Bakit ba sila nagagalit Kay Manny pag sinasabing may corruption sa govt? Bakit, wala ba? (Why do they get mad at Manny when [he] says there is corruption in government? Why, is there really none?)" Sotto asked on Twitter. 

Meanwhile, Sen. Risa Hontiveros, appearing on the same program as Duque on Thursday said she was "not satisfied" by the DOH's fund utilization report. 

Hontiveros last month sought a special audit of the government's pandemic funds, noting that the billions allocated do not seem to be felt on the ground.

"I've been calling for the Executive, Malacañang, to pick up the half-year the weekly reports that have been cut off from our people, from Congress, [on] their COVID-19 expenses," she also said partially in Filipino. "And of course the DOH is front and center of what should be that spending for our health response." 

"I'm not at all satisfied with the performance so far of the DOH, not in terms of performance on the ground, and not in terms of reporting to the people." 

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