Duterte Hits Out at Pacquiao as Philippine Election Nears

Aie Balagtas See
Duterte Hits Out at Pacquiao as Philippine Election Nears Philippine senator and boxing champion Manny Pacquiao reads briefing materials as he prepares for a Senate session in Pasay city, Metro Manila, Sept. 20, 2016.

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte says he may run for vice president next year, and has threatened to campaign against Sen. Manny Pacquiao, a potential presidential contender whom he has accused of discrediting his administration.

In a late-night speech on Monday, Duterte criticized Pacquiao after the eight-time world boxing champion allegedly accused his administration of being three times more corrupt than that of late President Benigno Aquino III.

In recent days, many Filipinos have praised Aquino, who died last week, for boosting the economy, battling corruption and earning the country high marks from credit rating agencies during his presidency.

“Pacquiao keeps on talking about how we [are] three times more corrupt” than the previous administration, Duterte said during his weekly public address to the nation late Monday.

It was not immediately clear what remarks he was responding to, but Duterte singled out Pacquiao, saying the senator and boxing celebrity should name names.

“I will wait for that list. If you fail to do that, I will campaign against you because you are not doing your duty. Do it because, if not, I will just tell the people: Do not vote for Pacquiao because he is a liar,” Duterte said.

“So I am challenging him: Point out those offices that are corrupt. And let me take care of it. Within one week, I will do something.”

Duterte also said he may seek the vice presidency because there were many projects left to do once he completes his constitutionally limited six-year term.

“[M]e, running for vice president. I’d say it’s not at all a bad idea, and if there’s space for me there, then maybe I would run,” Duterte said, although he has repeatedly claimed he is tired of politics.

Accepting the challenge

Pacquiao is the current president of Duterte’s political party. His possible run for president has complicated things for Duterte’s daughter, Sara Duterte, the 43-year-old mayor of southern Davao city, who has said she may seek the top post herself in May 2022.

The former boxer has yet to announce his intentions for next year’s polls, but is reportedly being wooed by the opposition to become its standard-bearer or vice-presidential candidate. 

In a written statement late Tuesday, Pacquaio said he was accepting Duterte’s challenge to name names.

“Thank you for allowing us to help you in the fight against corruption,” the 42-year-old senator said in a written statement.

Pacquaio singled out the Department of Health (DOH) and its secretary, Francisco Duque, who has fended off allegations of corruption in pandemic spending.

“Let’s start with the DOH. Let us check and investigate all rapid-test kits, PPE, masks and others. Are you ready, Sec. Francisco Duque, to show us the total cost of these? Where did the money we borrowed to address the pandemic go?” Pacquaio said.

The exchange was the latest round in a recent war of words between the president and Pacquaio, who had previously backed Duterte’s bid to restore the death penalty and supported his administration’s war on drugs. 

Earlier this month, Pacquiao called out Duterte’s foreign policy, saying the government’s response to China’s presence in Philippine-claimed waters of the South China Sea was lacking.

Duterte in turn slammed Pacquiao, saying he was not ready to be president.

And in the expletive-laden speech late Monday, Duterte asked his former ally why he was suddenly criticizing him after years of being “all praises” for his work.

Official filing in October

The ruling party to which both men belong, Partido Demokratiko Pilipino, has been urging Duterte to run for vice president. The 1987 constitution bars a president for seeking a second six-year term, but does not bar a run for lower office. 

Apart from Pacquaio and Sara Duterte, Sen. Christopher Go is also seen as among Duterte’s possible successors. Manila Mayor Francisco Domagoso has expressed his intention of running for the presidency, while the opposition slate would likely be led by Vice President Leni Robredo.

Official filing of candidacies will not be until October, and analysts said potential candidates are all keeping their cards close to their chests.

Political analyst Ramon Casiple said he thought Duterte’s tirades against Pacquiao were designed to protect the presidential bid of his daughter, Sara. 

It is obvious, he said, that Duterte wants his daughter to become his successor “but the problem is, Sara is not a member of the party.”

Analysts have also said they believe that Duterte wants his daughter to win to protect him from the International Criminal Court (ICC), whose former top prosecutor pushed for an investigation into thousands of extrajudicial killings under his drug war.


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