Senate of the Philippines

Pacquiao seeks Senate probe to ‘untangle web of corruption’ behind missing P10.4-B ‘ayuda’

Mara Cepeda
Pacquiao seeks Senate probe to ‘untangle web of corruption’ behind missing P10.4-B ‘ayuda’

HITTING CORRUPTION. In this file photo, Senator Manny Pacquiao delivers a privilege speech on June 2, 2021.

Joseph Vidal/Senate PRIB

Senator Manny Pacquiao alleges DSWD and e-wallet app Starpay 'robbed' Filipinos of economic resources amid the pandemic

Nearly two weeks after he dropped bombshell allegations against President Rodrigo Duterte’s government, Senator Manny Pacquiao filed a resolution formally calling for a probe into what he said were the P10.4-billion worth of missing pandemic aid. 

Pacquiao, who is currently in the United States, remotely filed Proposed Senate Resolution (PSR) No. 779 at 5 pm on Thursday, July 15. The boxing champion turned senator is in Los Angeles training for his fight against Errol Spence

Pacquiao wanted the appropriate Senate committee to help “untangle the web of corruption” in the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), which had entered into an agreement with e-wallet app Starpay  to disburse the pandemic subsidy funds to beneficiaries. 

Pacquiao alleged there were a total of P10.4 billion funds missing, as only 500,000 out of the 1.8 million target beneficiaries downloaded the app and claimed the money.

This means some 1.3 million beneficiaries did not get their assistance, but Pacquiao said DSWD records showed all of the payouts were supposedly completed. 

“There is an urgent need to look into this anomaly to untangle the web of corruption involving DSWD and Starpay, which has robbed our people of economic resources and denuded the government of its basic capacity to provide a lifeline to the vulnerable segment of the society that has been hit the hardest by the current pandemic,” said Pacquiao.

Both DSWD and Starpay, however, have already denied the senator’s allegations. 

With Pacquiao finally filing his resolution, the Senate blue ribbon committee – the panel that looks into corruption cases in government – now has documents of the senator’s allegations and can formally start an inquiry.

Blue ribbon panel chair and Senator Richard Gordon earlier said the committee could now kick off a probe into Pacquiao’s allegations against the Duterte government without at least getting the “specific facts” of his claims.

Apart from the DSWD, Pacquiao also accused the Department of Energy of corruption for entering into an alleged questionable agreement with the Independent Electricity Market Operator of the Philippines. The DOE is headed by senator’s PPD-Laban party mate Alfonso Cusi, who has been at odds with Pacquiao over party matters.

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Pacquiao first made his accusations against different agencies in the Duterte government on July 7, amid his apparent conflict with the President himself months before the 2022 elections.

Pacquiao is rumored to be eyeing the presidency, and the polls show him battling it out with presidential daughter and survey frontrunner, Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte. 

Pacquiao drew Duterte’s ire when the senator lamented corruption in government. The President then challenged Pacquiao to name these officials or else he would campaign against the apparent presidential hopeful in 2022. 

Pacquiao’s rift with Duterte comes in the middle of infighting in the ruling PDP-Laban, where the senator is acting president. Cusi is reportedly out to unseat Pacquiao as PDP-Laban president. – Rappler.com

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Mara Cepeda

Mara Cepeda specializes in stories about politics and local governance. She covers the Office of the Vice President, the Senate, and the Philippine opposition. She is a 2021 fellow of the Asia Journalism Fellowship and the Reham al-Farra Memorial Journalism Fellowship of the UN. Got tips? Email her at mara.cepeda@rappler.com or tweet @maracepeda.