MANILA — Malacañang on Monday likened Sen. Emmanuel "Manny" Pacquiao's corruption allegations against the administration of President Rodrigo Duterte to firecracker "watusi", instead of a nuclear bomb.
Pacquiao has yet to submit evidence of his claims of corruption against the departments of health and social welfare, among others, said Palace spokesman Harry Roque.
"Akala ko atom bomb, ‘yon pala watusi," Roque said of Pacquiao's accusation in a press briefing.
"Wala po, walang kuwenta, kasi puro generalized allegations po. Walang deal particulars, walang specific instance, walang ebidensya, wala man lang follow-up," he added.
(I thought it would be an atom bomb, it turned out to be a watusi. It is worthless because he just made generalized allegations. There were no deal particulars, specific evidence, or even a follow-up.)
Asked if a Senate probe on the boxer-turned-lawmaker's claims was necessary, Roque said, "Na kay Senator Pacquiao po 'yan dahil kabahagi 'yan ng kaniyang responsbilidad bilang senator, pero hindi naman niya magagampanan dahil umalis siya ng bansa, absent."
(That is up to Senator Pacquiao because that is part of his responsibility as senator, but he cannot fulfill that because he left the country, he is absent.)
Pacquiao is in the United States to prepare for his welterweight bout against Errol Spence Jr. on Aug. 21.
Pacquiao has been seen as among Duterte's strongest backers and a possible successor when the latter's 6-year term expires next June.
But a surprise word war erupted between the pair in late June, when Duterte threatened to expose Pacquiao as a liar, if he failed to prove a remark that the government is 3 times more corrupt than other administrations.
Earlier in June, Duterte criticized Pacquiao's "shallow" foreign policy knowledge, after the senator said he found the leader's stand on the South China Sea as "lacking" and "disheartening."
Duterte remains popular in the Philippines. Political allies are urging him to run as vice president when his term ends. His daughter is also seen among his possible successors.
Pacquiao has chided some allies who had urged Duterte to run in next year's polls.
"Hindi ko po alam kung ano pang pag-uusapan nila ni Presidente," Roque said, when asked about a possible meeting between the President and the senator.
"Nauna na po siyang nagbitaw ng mga salita sa media," he added.
(I do now know what else he and the President could discuss. Pacquiao already talked to the media.)
Duterte in 2016 won the presidency campaigning on a promise to fight corruption, crime, and illegal drugs.
But his administration has been dogged by scandals and allegations of graft and cover-ups in state agencies ranging from prisons, the state insurer, immigration, airports and customs, to police and the drugs enforcement agency, few of which led to convictions or high-profile resignations.
The Philippines also fell 14 notches to 113th spot among 180 countries in Transparency International's Corruption Perceptions Index in 2019. Last year, the country slipped to more spots to 115th.
-- With a report from Reuters