Duterte vs Pacquiao? Palace asserts ‘no falling out’ between the two officials

Published May 4, 2021, 5:11 PM

by Raymund Antonio

Senator Manny Pacquiao may have criticized President Duterte for his stance against China regarding the West Philippine Sea, but Malacañang said on Tuesday, May 4, there is no animosity between the two officials.

In his virtual media briefing, Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque asserted there is “no falling out” between Duterte and Pacquiao ahead of the May 2022 polls.

Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque (OPS / FILE PHOTO / MANILA BULLETIN)

Pacquiao is the acting president of the ruling PDP-Laban, the political party of Duterte. He is also a known administration ally.

“I don’t think there is a falling out,” Roque told reporters when asked if there is a growing rift between the two PDP-Laban stalwarts.

“Hanggang ngayon po nananatiling napakalaking fan ni Senator Pacquiao ang ating President sa larangan ng palakasan lalo na sa larangan ng boxing (Until now, the President remains a huge fan of Senator Pacquiao in the field of sport, especially in boxing),” he said.

The Palace office issued this statement after boxing legend-turned-senator took a swipe at Duterte for his weakening stance on Chinese incursions in the West Philippine Sea.

Pacquiao said in a recent online media interview that he found “lacking” the President’s efforts to assert the country’s sovereign rights in the disputed territory.

He even recalled Duterte’s campaign promise in 2016 to ride a jet ski going to Spratly Islands and other disputed areas to raise the Philippine flag there.

“Sa akin, nakukulangan ako, nakukulangan ako kumpara doon sa bago pa siya tumakbo, nage-eleksyon pa lang. Dapat ipatuloy niya ‘yun para magkaroon din naman tayo ng respeto (For me, I find it lacking. I find it lacking compared to how he was before he ran for President. He should have continued so we get some respect),” Pacquiao said.

Critics of the President have spoken out against his defeatist stance against China’s repeated incursions in the reefs and shoals both claimed by the Philippines and China.

Duterte repeatedly said that the Philippines cannot afford to go to war with China even as international law, foreign policy, and diplomacy experts told him that asserting the arbitral ruling does not need to lead to war.

China claims the entire WPS based on its ancient nine-dash-line map, but the Philippines won the case before the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea (ITLOS) in The Hague in 2016 and has since then used this victory to call on the Asian giant to respect maritime boundaries.