Duterte falsely claims Pacquiao backed out of boxing match

In another verbal tussle with his erstwhile ally, President Rodrigo Duterte falsely claimed that Senator Manny Pacquiao had backed out of an upcoming boxing match because he was supposedly scared to lose.

"He has a scheduled fight, but suddenly nag-back out (he backed out). Probably he knows that he is too old for that and failing in his boxing career. Kung matalo siya (If he loses), he’s a goner actually," said Duterte on Thursday, July 1, at the inauguration of the LRT Line 2 East Extension Project.

The remarks were clearly designed to hit Pacquiao's main source of popularity – his reputation as a world-famous boxing champion.

Pacquiao quickly issued a rejoinder, saying there was no truth to the President's claim.

"Tuloy ang aking laban at nakatakda akong umalis ngayong weekend para bigyan ng dangal ang ating bansa," he said in a message sent to reporters.

(My fight is pushing through, and I am scheduled to fly out this weekend to give pride to our country.)

The boxer-turned-lawmaker slammed Duterte for bringing up their spat right after Taal Volcano's phreatomagmatic eruption, which prompted the government to place it under Alert Level 3. Nearby communities are now at risk of dangerous volcanic debris and volcanic tsunami and have been told to evacuate.

"In the middle of the likely eruption of Taal Volcano, help and solutions are what our countrymen are looking for, not a fight. There's a crisis, let's give it our attention now," said Pacquiao in Filipino.

Duterte, in the same speech, made light of the Taal Volcano situation and even joked he would just put a "cap" on its crater.

Challenge to Pacquiao

Duterte said he would ask all government agencies to "cooperate 100%" with Pacquiao if he wants to investigate them for corruption.

But he challenged the senator to be comprehensive in his probe and to finish what he started. He made reference to Pacquiao's lackluster attendance records both as senator and Sarangani representative.

"I expect him to sit in Congress. Do not go anywhere. Finish and find out the corruption you are talking about," Duterte said.

"Kung mag-report ka, dalawa, isang buwan, then I would say that you are a shit. A shit is a shit.... Comply first with your duty as a senator. Huwag kang pa-absent-absent," said the President.

(If you report twice, once a month, then I would say that you are a shit. A shit is a shit.... Comply first with your duty as a senator. Don't be an absentee.)

'Consider me a VP candidate'

In the same speech, Duterte said Filipinos can consider him a vice presidential candidate for the 2022 elections. But it came at the heels of him also saying that he is floating a VP bid as "political leverage."

"Pang-ano lang 'yun sa pulitika, leverage. You would know what is a lameduck, kaya ikaw hindi ka talaga papayag na maging shit ka rin. Posturing 'yan, political posturing," he said.

(That's just for politics, leverage. You would know what is a lameduck, so you shouldn't let them treat you like shit. It's political posturing.)

"Maybe, to maintain the equilibrium sa lahat (for all), consider me a candidate for the vice presidency at this time," he later on said. – Rappler.com

Pia Ranada

Pia Ranada is a senior reporter for Rappler covering Philippine politics and environmental issues. For tips and story suggestions, email her at pia.ranada@rappler.com.