Duterte accuses Roxas of backing 'illegal mining operator'; LP hits back

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(File photo) Liberal Party's standard bearer Manuel "Mar" Roxas II (L) and PDP-Laban's presidential bet Rodrigo "Rody" Duterte (R).

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines) — A new episode to the word war saga between presidential candidates Rodrigo Duterte and Manuel “Mar” Roxas II may be brewing.

Duterte accused Roxas of being supported by billionaire businessman Eric Gutierrez, CEO of SR Metals, Inc., a controversial mining firm which was subjected to a Senate investigation for the allegedly illegal shipment of nickel ores amounting to P28 billion.

Duterte said despite the Supreme Court ordering Gutierrez’s mining company and its subsidiaries to stop operations, they continue because it is backed by Roxas and the ruling Liberal Party (LP).

“This Roxas is using the planes of Eric Gutierrez,” Duterte said.

He added Roxas has been using Gutierrez’s several jets for years, saying he personally saw the LP presidential bet using one of the jets in a trip to Davao City.

Related: Duterte dares Roxas: Let's have a gun duel

LP: Duterte creates ‘baseless controversy’

In a text message to CNN Philippines on Saturday (February 13), Koalisyon ng Daang Matuwid Spokesman Barry Gutierrez admitted that the businessman is an LP supporter.

But the LP spokesman said allegations that Gutierrez is "‘into illegal mining practice’ is pure spin on Mayor Duterte's part.”

He explained several planes were indeed leased by the party from a commercial aviation company partly owned by Gutierrez, but said “these are fully accounted for.”

“Once again, we see Mayor Duterte engaging in his favorite pastime — creating baseless controversy,” the LP spokesman said.

Related: Roxas dares Duterte to a fistfight instead of a slapping match

Davao-based journalist Ben Tesiorna contributed to this report.