The word war between the administration and Senator Manny Pacquiao continues after Malacañang hit back at the fighting legislator, saying he must have been absent or preoccupied when Health Secretary Francisco Duque III explained how the Department of Health (DOH) used the coronavirus (COVID-19) funds.
Presidential Spokesman Harry Roque made the statement after Senator Manny Pacquiao said the DOH needed to be investigated for its expenses like its procurement of personal protective equipment (PPEs) in response to President Duterte’s challenge to him to prove his allegation of corruption against the current administration.
In a press conference on Wednesday, June 30, Roque said Pacquiao must have been absent when Duque presented to the Senate how the DOH handled the pandemic and the funds allotted to the agency.
“Sa akin po, absent po siguro si Senator Pacquiao nung nagpresenta yung mga Cabinet secretaries (Maybe Senator Pacquiao was absent when Cabinet secretaries presented in the Senate),” he said.
“Kung hindi siya (If he was not) absent, he may have been preoccupied with something else,” he added.
“Hindi ko nga lang alam kung nandoon nga po siya nung naghi-hearing ang Senado at kung meron siyang mga tanong na ibinato kay Secretary Duque noong mga pagkakataon na yun (I don’t know if he was there when the Senate was conducting a hearing or if he asked Secretary Duque some questions),” he continued.
However, Roque said the beef between President Duterte and Senator Pacquiao started and will end in politics.
“Politika po talaga. Politika po ang katapusan nito (This is really about politics and will end in politics),” he said.
“Tingin ko maghuhusga ang taong bayan kung sino talaga mamumuno sa 2022 (I think it is the people who will decide who should lead the country in 2022),” he added.
On Monday, President Duterte warned Senator Pacquiao that he will “expose him as a liar” if he cannot substantiate his claims that the current administration was three times more corrupt than its predecessor.
“I’m challenging him. Ituro mo ang opisina na korap at ako na ang bahala. Within one week may gawin ako (Name the office that is involved in corruption and I will take care of it within a week),” he said.
However, the President said he will personally campaign against the world-renowned boxer if he cannot prove his allegations, noting that Pacquiao was aspiring to become the next president of the country.
“If you will fail to do that, I will campaign against you, because you are not doing your duty,” Duterte addressed Pacquiao.
“Do it, because if you will not, I will just tell the people, ‘Do not vote for Pacquiao because he is a liar,'” he added.
Pacquiao has been reported to be seeking the presidency in next year’s polls. He is the acting president of the ruling PDP-Laban Party while President Duterte serves as its chairman.
Last month, PDP-Laban adopted a resolution urging Duterte to run for vice president next year. In his public address on Monday, June 28, the President said it was not a bad idea but noted that his decision would depend on his presidential candidate.
Last week, the President said he will support the candidacy of House Majority Leader and Leyte 1st District Representative Martin Romualdez for vice president in the 2022 polls.