MANILA - Senator Manny Pacquiao on Sunday denied allegations that he "gate-crashed" into Malacañang to meet President Rodrigo Duterte.
Pacquiao was reacting to Duterte's claim that the former just popped up in Malacañang last Tuesday, when the two supposedly had a friendly meeting.
According to Pacquiao, he could not have stepped inside the Palace if he did not have any prior appointment, adding that it was 1Pacman Party-list Rep. Eric Pineda who told him about Duterte's request for a meeting.
"Hindi po ako traditional politician pero marunong akong makiramdam. Pumayag po ako na pumunta sa Malacañang hindi upang humingi ng suporta kundi upang ipakita ang respeto sa ating Pangulo. Nagpunta ako doon as a gesture of respect to the President," Pacquiao said.
(I am not a traditional politician but I am sensitive. I agreed to go to Malacañang not to ask for support but just to show respect to the president. I went there as a gesture of respect to the President.)
Assuming that he was invited, Pacquiao said he was surprised when Duterte asked him what the meeting was all about.
"Nagulat ako dahil hindi rin niya alam na may meeting kami. Pareho kaming nagulat," he said.
(I was surprised that he was not aware that we have a meeting. We were both taken by surprise.)
Pacquiao, however, stressed that he would not have been able to enter Malacañang and meet with Duterte even for a few seconds if he did not have a prior appointment.
"It is impossible na sumulpot lang ako sa (to just pop up in) Malacañang as the president claims. To get inside Malacañang you would need an appointment and you cannot get any appointment if you were not called upon by the president," Pacquiao said.
He also said that he took the opportunity to apologize to Duterte if the latter got offended about him raising the issue of corruption in the government.
Malacañang earlier said it was Senator Christopher "Bong" Go who requested the meeting, adding that Pacquiao and Duterte had a short talk and "renewal of friendship."
Relations between the two soured after Pacquiao criticized Duterte's policy on the South China Sea, and accused the health department of graft and corruption activities.
Pacquiao is running for president under a faction in the ruling party PDP-Laban. The PDP-Laban wing of Energy Secretary Alfonso Cusi, who "kicked out" the senator from the party, said they want Duterte to run for the Senate.