MANILA — An ally of President Rodrigo Duterte said on Monday it appeared "impossible" for their group to reconcile with the PDP-Laban wing headed by Sen. Manny Pacquiao, ahead of the 2022 elections.
Pacquiao on Sunday accepted his faction's nomination as candidate for president next year, just days after a rival wing nominated Duterte's long-time aide Sen. Christopher "Bong" Go as its presidential candidate. Go has not accepted his nomination.
Duterte himself said he was running for vice president, which Pacquiao earlier opposed and a move that critics called a cynical ploy by the President to retain power.
"I think we’re beyond that already," Duterte ally Melvin Matibag said of talks with Pacquiao. "We extended a lot of courtesy to them, a lot of invitation to talk, but despite of that, hindi maganda yung mga naging [pag-]respond."
"Publicly, marami nang sinabi si Senator Pacquiao at ini-criticize ang administration. So I don’t think ngayon magiging possible pa," said Matibag, secretary general of the Duterte-backed PDP-Laban faction.
(The response was not good. Publicly, Senator Pacquiao has said a lot of things and criticized the administration. So I don’t think it will still be possible.)
In July, Pacquiao was supposedly voted out as PDP-Laban leader, weeks after challenging Duterte over his position on China and record on fighting corruption. The move was rejected by the boxer-senator's faction.
Once a close ally of Duterte, Pacquiao had said more than P10 billion in pandemic aid intended for poor families was unaccounted for, adding this was just one discovery in his planned corruption investigation.
His anti-corruption crusade comes as the Senate has opened an investigation into alleged overpricing of medical supplies and equipment purchased under the government’s pandemic response program.
"Iba na ‘yong linya ni Senator Pacquiao," said Matibag. "He’s already campaigning like an opposition candidate, no longer an administration candidate or a PDP candidate."
(Senator Pacquiao's line has changed.)
Duterte has challenged Pacquiao to name corrupt government offices to prove that the boxer was not just politicking ahead of the election.
Pacquiao countered by warning of jail for corrupt government officials: "Your time is up!"
The filing of certificates of candidacy for the May 9, 2022 polls opens on Oct. 1.
— With reports from Jamaine Punzalan, ABS-CBN News; Reuters