Philippine Senator Pacquiao Sues Duterte’s Spiritual Adviser for Cyber Libel

Luis Liwanag and Jojo Riñoza
Manila
2021-09-14
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Philippine Senator Pacquiao Sues Duterte’s Spiritual Adviser for Cyber Libel Philippine Sen. Manny Pacquiao (left) attends a senate hearing in Manila, Feb. 24, 2020.
Jojo Riñoza/BenarNews

Philippine senator and former world boxing champion Manny Pacquiao on Tuesday filed a 100 million peso (U.S. $2 million) cyber libel complaint against President Rodrigo Duterte’s spiritual adviser for accusing him of corruption. 

The development signaled a break between party colleagues Duterte and Pacquiao. The senator has said he is considering running for president, while Duterte, whose six-year term ends next year, has accepted the nomination of his party to run for vice president in the upcoming election.

The eight-time world boxing champion demanded Pastor Apollo Quiboloy, a self-proclaimed “Appointed Son of God,” pay him damages for spreading “fabricated” claims. 

“He used deliberate falsehood to brainwash the minds of the Filipino public, recklessly propagating it to blacken the image and reputation of an honest public servant,” Pacquiao said in his 13-page complaint filed at the Makati City Prosecutor’s Office.  

“He even had the audacity to quote the Holy Scriptures in furtherance of his lies, misleading his flock and confusing the public, with the end in view of blackening another’s reputation.”

Pacquiao said his complaint stemmed from a television appearance and social media post made by Quiboloy where he claimed the senator had misused 3.5 billion pesos for an unfinished sports training Center in his southern Philippine hometown.

Quiboloy’s accusation came after Pacquiao said corruption is worsening in the country and has been pervasive under Duterte’s regime. 

The pastor has publicized his closeness with Duterte, and posted photos of his August visit with Duterte on Facebook. The pictures were captioned – “President Rodrigo Duterte is being prayed over by his spiritual adviser and bosom buddy, Pastor Apollo C. Quiboloy after a private dinner.”

Quiboloy’s lawyer Israelito Torreon on Tuesday said his client had not received a copy of Pacquiao’s complaint.

But the pastor said in a television appearance late on Tuesday that Pacquiao “appears cocksure he would win” the lawsuit.

“Is there already a judgment? Has there been a trial already?” Quiboloy said in a speech broadcast on SMNI, a television channel owned by his ministry.

“It’s in the hands of my lawyers, we’ll see. You know there is a supreme court in heaven, there is a judge in heaven looking over us, so play fair, because if not ... all of you will pay the price.”

Political rift

The rift between Pacquiao and Duterte has widened recently and led to the senator’s ouster as the president of their party, the Partido Demokratiko Pilipino (PDP) Laban, in July. 

The PDP last week nominated Duterte to run for vice president with his long-time aide and now senator Christopher Go, as president. Despite the nomination, Go has said he does not plan to run for the top office.

Meanwhile Sara Duterte, the president’s 43-year-old daughter and mayor of Davao City, has said she will not seek higher office if her father runs for the vice presidency. 

Pacquiao stood by his comment about alleged corruption and Duterte’s government. 

“My statement relating to the prevalence of corruption in the Philippines under the current administration and even at the time of the COVID-19 pandemic is based on findings from documents and information I obtained from concerned citizens,” Pacquiao said.

Joining a Senate investigation on Monday over alleged corruption in the Duterte administration, Pacquiao said he had learned a new word – “plundemic” – or official plunder amid the pandemic.

He praised state auditors for sharing their findings with the public despite alleged pressure from the president.

“We won’t play blind or stay silent. We won’t allow crooks in government to keep stealing from the taxpayers’ coffers. Our dream is to see in jail all the crooks,” he said, adding that he had learned a new word – “plundemic” – or official plunder amid the pandemic.

In June, Pacquiao publicly accused Health Secretary Francisco Duque of anomalies in acquiring medical equipment, including rapid-test kits, masks and personal protective equipment, to fight the coronavirus.

In August, the Commission on Audit identified 67.32 billion pesos ($1.34 billion) in “deficient” funds at the health department, but said the money represented “missed opportunities” in the pandemic response. 

Responding to Pacquiao’s comments on Tuesday, Duterte spokesman Harry Roque said his remarks were expected, “because it is already election season.”  

The spokesman told reporters that the commission’s auditors already stated that the health department’s deficient funds were not conclusive of corruption.

“So, there is no ‘plundemic,’” he said.

Dennis Jay Santos in Davao, Philippines, contributed to this report.

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