MANILA — President Rodrigo Duterte on Tuesday landed another blow on Sen. Manny Pacquiao in their raging word war, this time raising a tax case that the latter fought as boxing superstar.
A surprise rift erupted between Pacquio and Duterte in late June, after the President threatened to prove the senator was a liar, over his claim that the current administration is 3 times more corrupt than its predecessors.
"I remember he (Pacquiao) has a tax evasion case and he has been assessed to pay, P2.2 billion ang utang niya na hindi niya binayaran ang gobyerno, for all his fights," Duterte said in a taped meeting with his political party, which government aired on Wednesday.
(His debt to the government is at P2.2 billion.)
"Sabi kasi niya kasi korap. Kung korap kami, ikaw, when you cheat government, you are a corrupt official, lalo na," said the President.
(He alleged corruption. If we are corrupt, you, when you cheat government, you are a corrupt official, more so.)
Duterte said he did not know if the case was still pending in court.
The Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) in 2013 filed a tax fraud case against Pacquiao and his wife Jinkee for alleged tax deficiencies in 2008 and 2009 amounting to P2.2 billion.
Pacquiao said his income taxes have been fully paid in the United States. His lawyers argued that Philippine laws protect against double taxation, and that in the words of then BIR commissioner Kim Henares, "a Filipino citizen is taxed on his global income."
Despite the legal battle, Pacquiao reigned as the top taxpayer in 2013, and ranked second the next year.
Pacquiao’s camp has yet to release a statement on Duterte’s latest tirade. The senator is in the US for a boxing match in August.
The senator, who has defended Duterte’s drug war, was initially seen among the President’s possible anointed successors in the 2022 elections.
But 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 urged Duterte to run in next year's polls.
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