A comment made by Senator Manny Pacquiao on President Rodrigo Duterte's "lacking" response to Chinese aggression in the West Philippine Sea seems to have irked the Chief Executive.
On Tuesday, June 8, in an interview with religious leader Apollo Quiboloy, Duterte said Pacquiao, his party mate, should study foreign policy better before making related remarks.
"It's about foreign policy, I wouldn't want to degrade him but, next time, he should – mag-aral ka muna nang husto bago ka gumawa ng statement," said Duterte.
(Study better before making a statement.)
He then sounded like he was saying someone, likely Pacquiao, has a "very shallow knowledge" of diplomacy but the President didn't complete his sentence.
Duterte's reaction to Pacquiao, although late, gives a clue as to where the boxer-turned-lawmaker stands in his eyes.
It was more than a month ago, on May 3, when Pacquiao, in an online interview, said he found Duterte's response to recent swarming of Chinese ships in the West Philippine Sea as "lacking."
"Sa akin, nakukulangan ako. Nakukulangan ako kumpara doon sa bago pa siya tumakbo, nag-e-eleksyon pa lang. Dapat ipatuloy niya yun para magkaroon din naman tayo ng respeto," Pacquiao had said.
(For me, I find it lacking. I find it lacking if compared to what he said before he ran, during elections. He should have continued that so we earn some respect.)
PDP-Laban members allied with Pacquiao later on denied the senator was criticizing Duterte, their party chairman. But some party members interpreted Pacquiao's remarks as criticism also and issued a statement expressing their disapproval.
Later on, PDP-Laban members convened in an assembly organized with the blessing of Duterte. Pacquiao did not attend the meeting.
Political analysts say the rift in Duterte's party are likely connected to the 2022 national elections. Pacquiao is rumored to be eyeing the presidency. In 2016 and 2017, Duterte had actually teasingly promoted a Pacquiao presidential bid. More recently, however, he's teased the presidential bid of his longtime aide, Senator Bong Go.
Pacquiao, however, stood by his assessment of Duterte's defeatist stance over the West Philippine Sea.
"I regret that the President was misinformed regarding my statement on the West Philippine Sea Issue. I firmly believe that my statement reflects the sentiment of majority of the Filipinos, that we should stand strong in protecting our sovereign rights while pursuing a peaceful and diplomatic solution to the dispute," Pacquiao said in a statement on Wednesday, June 9.
The Duterte ally said he respect's the President's opinion, but also "humbly disagrees" with how Duterte sees Pacquiao's understanding of foreign policy.
"I am a Filipino voicing out what needs to be said in defense of what has been adjudicated as rightfully ours," said Pacquiao. – Rappler.com
Pia Ranada covers the Office of the President and Bangsamoro regional issues for Rappler. While helping out with desk duties, she also watches the environment sector and the local government of Quezon City. For tips or story suggestions, you can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.