MANILA - Saying he is not a liar, Sen. Manny Pacquiao on Tuesday accepted the challenge of President Rodrigo Duterte for him to name corrupt agencies, identifying the Department of Health as the first.
"Mawalang galang po mahal na Pangulo, nguni’t hindi ako sinungaling... Tinatanggap ko ang hamon ng Pangulong Rodrigo Duterte. Salamat po at binigyan nyo kami ng pagkakataon na tumulong sa inyo at bigyan kayo ng mga impormasyon para kampanya kontra korapsyon," Pacquiao said in a statement.
(With all due respect, beloved President, I am not a liar... I accept the challenge of President Rodrigo Duterte. Thank you for giving us the opportunity to help you and give you information in the campaign against corruption.)
Duterte, in a taped address on Monday, challenged the boxer-senator to list government offices and employees involved in corrupt practices to prove his claim that the administration is “three times” more corrupt than previous administrations.
According to Duterte, he will wait for Pacquiao to speak up about what he knows, otherwise, he will campaign against him in the upcoming elections.
Both belong to the PDP-Laban party, with Duterte as chairman and Pacquiao as acting president. Some officials have said Pacquiao intends to seek the country's top post next year, but the senator has yet to confirm it.
"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.
Defending his claim, Pacquiao said, "Ang Pangulo mismo ang nagbanggit sa kanyang pahayag noong October 27, 2020 na lalong lumalakas ang korapsyon sa gobyerno."
(It was the President himself who said in his speech last October 27, 2020 that corruption in government is getting worse.)
"In his own words, sinabi niya na 'I will concentrate the last remaining years of my term fighting corruption kasi hanggang ngayon hindi humihina, lumalakas pa lalo.' Mr. President, I feel the same way," added the senator.
(In his own words, he said, 'I will concentrate the last remaining years of my term fighting corruption because until now, it has not subsided, it's even getting worse.')
Duterte won the presidency in 2016 campaigning on a promise to fight corruption, crime, and illegal drugs.
The Philippines ranked 115th out of 180 countries in the 2020 Corruption Perception Index by Berlin-based watchdog Transparency International, released earlier this year. It ranked 113th in 2019, 99th in 2018, 111th in 2017, and 101st in 2016.
"The Philippines, with a score of 34, is 11 points below the regional CPI average, and anti-corruption efforts appear to have stagnated since 2015," Transparency International said in its latest report.
The index ranks 180 countries and territories by their perceived levels of public sector corruption, according to experts and business people.
LOOKING INTO THE DOH
“Magsimula tayo sa DOH. Silipin at busisiin natin lahat ng mga binili mula sa rapid test kits, PPE, masks at iba pa,” Pacquiao said.
(Let's begin with the DOH. Let's look into all the purchases made, from rapid test kits, PPE, masks and others.)
“Handa ka ba Sec. Francisco Duque na ipakita ang kabuuan ng iyong ginagastos? Saan napunta ang pera na inutang natin para sa pandemya?” he added.
(Sec. Francisco Duque, are you prepared to present all your expenses? Where did the money we borrowed for the pandemic go?)
Last year, several senators alleged that the Philippines lost P1 billion after the national government bought allegedly overpriced personal protective equipment for medical frontliners, while another P422 million was allegedly spent to procure overpriced coronavirus test kits.
'HINDI TIWALI, HINDI SINUNGALING'
"May mga naging pagkakamali ako sa buhay na aking itinuwid at itinama nguni’t dalawang bagay ang kaya kong panghawakan. Hindi ako tiwali at hindi ako sinungaling," Pacquiao said.
(I made mistakes in life, and corrected them. But there are two things I am proud of myself: I am upright and not a liar.)
Pacquiao lamented the rift between him and Duterte, which surfaced few months before the filing of candidacies for the 2022 national elections.
“Nakakalungkot na sa isyu ng korapsyon kami magtatalo, dahil ang kailangan ng bansa ay mga lider na magtutulungan laban dito,” he said.
(It's sad that we are fighting over the issue on corruption, because what the country needs are leaders helping each other to fight this.)
He earlier criticized Duterte for the latter's softened approach in defending the Philippines' sovereign rights in the West Philippine Sea amid China's continuing incursions.
Pacquiao has also been at odds with some members of the PDP-Laban led by Energy Secretary Alfonso Cusi, the party's vice chairman.
Cusi accused Pacquiao of “burning bridges” within the ruling party after the senator told members to snub a gathering in Cebu last month where a resolution was passed urging Duterte to seek the vice presidency next year and choose his running mate.
Pacquiao did not sanction the event, and warned Cusi of consequences for his actions.