PRESIDENT Rodrigo Duterte, in a fit of pique at Manny Pacquiao describing his administration as more corrupt than that of his predecessor, dared him to provide proof of his allegation or he would go after him and call him a liar. Pacquiao, a legendary international boxing champ, responded with a counter and has started lining up the questions and documents on corruption in the Duterte bureaucracy. This is bound to be exciting.
Even the questions alone are compelling. The first one he raised, involving billions of pesos, is on a program designed to provide aid to poor people. Online distribution of aid is tricky, more so if the firn involved started with capitalization of only a few thousand pesos for a transaction this big. The Department of Social Welfare and Development has promised to answer Pacquiao.
But this exchange between the President and Pacquiao could widen because of the involvement of many sectors and personalities who are concerned with how public money is being spent, especially those taken from government loans already amounting to trillions of pesos. I have already read stories about the matter online, some of them mind-boggling. With the coming elections, these could surface one after the other.
Pacquiao picking up the Duterte challenge means he would soon be out of the administration party. He is being maligned already by pro-Duterte trolls in social media, including Apollo Quiboloy, the religious sect pastor who claims to be the appointed son of God, a claim that netizens said he should also provide proof of. Quiboloy is from Mindanao and is an avid Duterte supporter.
Interestingly, the maligning of Pacquiao in social media reminded me of how pro-Duterte trolls maligned the late former President Benigno Simeon Aquino III in 2016. Aquino had to die to prompt a reexamination of the lies the Duterte camp hurled at him. Now Pacquiao is being called names and below-the-belt attacks.
One attack that could be that camp’s undoing is on the senator’s educational attainment. Pacquiao, after all, grew up poor and unschooled and only got redemption from boxing. There were many children like him. That he became a legendary boxer through sheer hard work only shows his potential had he grown up as privileged. But he was able to avail of a curriculum offered by the education department to the less privileged.
What I am saying is that the more they hurl insults at Pacquiao, the more they alienate a good number of poor Filipinos, who form the base of Duterte supporters. They should be careful with this tactic then because it would further erode the support the Duterte camp is getting. But Pacquiao seems determined to craft his own path to the presidency that I doubt if he would ever return to the Duterte fold.
Pacquiao may not have been schooled, but the University of Hard Knocks is a great educational institution also. And Pacquiao is intelligent and daring. Many can be intelligent but not daring. Proof of that daring was when he fought a giant in Antonio Margarito and won.