MALACANANG has denied that there was a growing rift between President Rodrigo Duterte and Sen. Emmanuel “Manny” Pacquiao ahead of the May 2022 elections.
Palace spokesman Harry Roque Jr. said Pacquiao may have criticized Duterte for his stance against China regarding the West Philippine Sea but there was “no falling out” between the two officials.
Pacquiao is the acting president of the ruling Partido Demokratiko Pilipino–Lakas ng Bayan (PDP-Laban), the political party that Duterte heads.
“I don’t think there is a falling out,” Roque told reporters when asked if there is a growing rift between the two PDP-Laban stalwarts.
“Hanggang ngayon po, nananatiling napakalaking fan ni Senator Pacquiao ang ating Presidente sa larangan ng palakasan lalo na sa larangan ng boxing. Hanggang doon na lang po tayo (Until now, the President remains to be a huge fan of Senator Pacquiao in terms of strength and in the field of boxing. Let’s leave it at that),” he added.
Roque made the statement after Pacquiao took a swipe at Duterte for his weakening stance on Chinese incursions in the West Philippine Sea.
Pacquiao said in a recent online media interview that he found “lacking” the President’s efforts to assert the country’s sovereign rights in the disputed territory.
He even recalled Duterte’s campaign promise in 2016 to ride a jet ski going to Spratly Islands and other disputed areas to raise the Philippine flag there.
“Sa akin, nakukulangan ako, nakukulangan ako kumpara doon sa bago pa siya tumakbo, nage-eleksyon pa lang. Dapat ipatuloy niya ‘yun para magkaroon din naman tayo ng respeto (For me, I find it lacking. I find it lacking compared to how he was before he ran for President. He should have continued so we get some respect),” Pacquiao said.
The President has repeatedly asserted that the Philippines would not go to war with China over the conflict in the disputed waters.
Duterte even said the Philippines owed a “debt of gratitude” to China because of its assistance to the country, including the vaccines it donated.
“China, let it be known, is a good friend and we do not want trouble with them, especially war. But there are things which are not really subject to a compromise,” he has said.
China claims nearly the entire South China Sea, including parts of the West Philippine Sea, but the Permanent Court of Arbitration invalidated this in July 2016, recognizing the Philippines’ sovereign rights in the area.
Duterte has decided to temporarily shelve the ruling to maintain peace, stability, and cordial relations among claimant countries in the region.
The President, however, said he would raise the ruling “maybe once” before his term ends in 2022.