President Duterte is not inclined to apologize to Senator Manny Pacquiao over his recent tirade despite a widening rift with the erstwhile political ally.
According to Presidential spokesman Harry Roque, the President’s comments about Pacquiao were part of free speech.
“Wala pong dahilan para mag-apologize (There is no reason to apologize),” Roque said during a televised press briefing Wednesday, July 21.
“Lahat po ‘yan ay kabahagi ng free market place of ideas (All of these are part of free marketplace of ideas),” he added.
Roque was reacting to former Bacolod Rep. Monico Puentevella’s statement that the President supposedly owed an apology to Pacquiao for hurling expletives against the senator. Puentevella is a known friend of Pacquiao.
“I expect even if you’re a president, for a senator na minura mo at least you owe him an apology. Kung hindi ka mag-apologize kay senator, ito ay magtatapos sa dulo sa eleksyon, sa susunod na eleksyon (If you won’t apologize to the senator, this will end in the next elections),” Puentevella said over “The Chiefs” program on July 21.
Asked if Pacquiao still considered the President an ally since they belong to the ruling PDP-Laban party, Puentevella admitted that such alliance was probably over if no apology was forthcoming.
Apart from receiving insults and vulgar comments from the President, Puentevella pointed out that Pacquiao actually reached out and sought a dialogue to address the dispute but his request was ignored. Pacquiao was also removed from the party leadership during a recent national assembly, he added.
“Unless he will apologize, this is over. The bottom line here is Sara Duterte vs Manny Pacquiao. The best fight for 2022 in the Philippines,” the former lawmaker said during the television interview.
Duterte and Pacquiao have been allies for a long time until their ties became strained following the latter’s criticisms of the President’s alleged weak stance in defending the West Philippine Sea from China’s incursions. Duterte hit back at Pacquiao, belittling the boxer-turned-senator’s competence and telling him to first study foreign policy.
Paquiao also drew the President’s ire when the senator alleged that corruption has worsened under the present administration.
Annoyed at the latest jab from the senator, Duterte threatened to campaign against Pacquiao if he is unable to prove his corruption claims. The lawmaker is rumored to be eyeing the presidency in next year’s elections.
Recently, Duterte said Pacquiao was “punch-drunk” to make such baseless allegations against his government. He reminded Pacquiao about a tax evasion complaint despite his supposed anti-corruption drive.