'Hindi ako sinungaling': Pacquiao accepts Duterte challenge to expose govt corruption

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"Mawalang galang po mahal na Pangulo, ngunit hindi ako sinungaling," Senator Manny Pacquiao says as he takes on President Rodrigo Duterte's challenge to expose corruption within the administration.

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, June 29) - Senator Manny Pacquiao on Tuesday took on President Rodrigo Duterte's challenge for him to expose corruption in government, as he stood by the credibility of his allegations.

"Tinatanggap ko ang hamon ng Pangulong Rodrigo Duterte [I accept President Rodrigo Duterte's challenge]," Pacquiao said in a statement.

In a televised address Monday night, the President chided Pacquiao - a long-time ally - after he claimed the current administration is more corrupt than its predecessor.

The two are top officials of the ruling Partido Demokratiko Pilipino-Lakas ng Bayan (PDP-Laban) party. Duterte is the party chairman while Pacquiao is acting president.

If the boxer-turned-senator fails to prove his claims, Duterte said this would only show he is a "liar" and is simply politicking. Pacquiao, however, maintained he is telling the truth.

"Mawalang galang po mahal na Pangulo, ngunit hindi ako sinungaling [With all due respect Mr. President, I am not a liar], " he said.

"Dalawang bagay ang kaya kong panghawakan. Hindi ako tiwali at hindi ako sinungaling [I can assure you of two things. I am not corrupt and I am not a liar]," he continued.

Pacquiao also noted that it was the President himself who acknowledged the nation's persisting corruption problem in a speech in October last year.

"In his own words, sinabi niya na [he said], 'I will concentrate the last remaining years of my term fighting corruption kasi hanggang ngayon hindi humihina, lumalakas pa lalo [because it's becoming more serious],'" he said.

The senator then issued a warning to Health Secretary Francisco Duque III, saying he'll start with exposing the misuse of funds within the Department of Health amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

While he was "disheartened by these baseless accusations," Duque said they are ready to cooperate.

"While we are disheartened by these baseless accusations from our government officials, we submit ourselves to inquiries from legislators as this is a part of the checks and balances in our government," he said in a statement. "I have always been a champion of good governance and the DOH has always been transparent with regard to our fund utilization."

The Health chief added that loans to fund vaccine procurement have already been explained to the Senate and that these go directly to vaccine manufacturers from the funding agency. He also said the budget for the implementation of the Universal Health Care Law and other services amid the COVID-19 pandemic were rationally used.

Palace: Falling-out 'rather obvious'

In a Malacañang briefing, Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque acknowledged the growing rift between Duterte and Pacquiao.

"I think it's rather obvious that the relationship between the President and Pacquiao is not as cordial as it was," Roque said.

Earlier this month, Duterte also called out the senator for criticizing his stance on the West Philippine Sea issue.

But asked if Duterte wants Pacquiao out of PDP-Laban, Roque said the President recognizes it is "a party of the Pimentel family."

Sen. Aquilino "Koko" Pimentel, the PDP-Laban's executive vice chairman, recently said he believes Pacquiao would be a "good choice" for the party's standard bearer in the 2022 polls. Pimentel has also said both Duterte and Pacquiao should meet to settle their issues.