"Duterte should have even welcomed Pacquiao's exposé as this would have demonstrated his seriousness in going after those robbing the national treasury blind."
Rodrigo Duterte came out on television recently with another jab against Sen. Manny Pacquiao, calling him "punch-drunk," after the boxer claimed that some P10.4 billion in the Social Amelioration Program (SAP) disbursed by the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) had gone missing.
The intentional slur on the boxer's mental state is not surprising, given Duterte's propensity to throw everything, including the kitchen sink, at his perceived political adversaries.
What did Duterte actually say? This: “To be talking about P10 billion from nowhere, will I allow, will we allow, will the secretaries of the department allow that something like that will be missing? P10 billion. That is a statement coming from a guy who is punch-drunk. Drunk.”
What this latest nocturnal diatribe from Malacañan Palace amply demonstrates is that the gloves are really off between Duterte and Pacquiao, with skirmishes expected every now and then as we move closer to 2022.
What Pacquiao told a virtual press conference just before he left for Los Angeles to train for an upcoming fight in August was that he had evidence to show that Starpay, an e-wallet application used by the DSWD, had failed to fully distribute the SAP assistance, with a total of P10.4 billion missing even though it was reported that all of the payouts had been completed.
According to the senator, only 500,000 of the 1.8 million beneficiaries were able to avail of the financial assistance. The remaining 1.3 million, he said, did not receive anything.
But why would Duterte be all riled up over Pacquiao's exposé on corruption within the administration when he himself had admitted recently that he had failed to achieve his campaign pledge to stamp out corruption and had grown tired of reports of wrongdoing festering in various offices five years into his term of office?
Apparently frustrated that he has done little to curb corruption in the past five years of his term, Mr. Duterte had even ordered the creation of a mega-task force from various agencies led by the Department of Justice to help ferret out corrupt bureaucrats in several agencies, including the Department of Public Works and Highways, Bureau of Internal Revenue, Bureau of Customs, Land Registration Authority, and PhilHealth. We have yet to hear anything in terms of findings from this mega-task force.
Let us not forget that there's also a Presidential Anti-Corruption Commission (PACC) that's supposed to investigate graft committed by presidential appointees. What has it accomplished? Last we checked, the PACC immediately declared Pacquiao's allegations "worthless."
Ah, and there's the Office of the Ombudsman that's supposed to pro-actively investigate complaints against erring public officials. This office now handles enough graft cases against certain public officials from various departments and agencies, but it appears that only a few have actually been convicted and sent to jail. Again, we must ask what it has achieved so far since 2016.
In other words, there's enough instruments at Duterte's disposal to run after the corrupt in his administration.
So why is he asking Pacquiao to come up with evidence on alleged wrongdoing when the Office of the President has enough funds to the tune of billions of pesos in intelligence funds that are not even subject to COA inspection?
Duterte certainly knows which government agencies and officials are the most corrupt based on information relayed to him by his subordinates. He does not need Pacquiao to tell him which offices and officials are corrupt. When he does that, he is practically coddling the corrupt in his administration.
When Sen. Pacquiao actually said that the extent of corruption under Duterte had doubled—not tripled, as Duterte claimed—since the previous administration, he was making a conclusion already validated by international institutions. Annual surveys by Transparency International, for instance, show the Philippines among the most corrupt countries in the world, while the World Bank has pointed out that close to one-fourth of the total annual national budget is lost to corruption.
Duterte tried to push Pacquiao into a corner by asking him to provide evidence of wrongdoing in various government agencies. Isn't that the president's job? Why doesn't Duterte himself come up with a list of the most corrupt agencies under his administration and go after the big fish with hammer and tongs?
Duterte should have even welcomed Pacquiao's exposé as this would have demonstrated his seriousness in going after those robbing the national treasury blind.
We cannot help but think that by raking Pacquiao over the coals for exposing corruption, Duterte is simply trying to divert attention from his own rank failure to curb widespread and persistent corruption in his administration that may have actually even worsened since 2016.