LIBERAL Party standard bearer Manuel Roxas II challenged his opponent Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte to a fistfight Tuesday, but the latter suggested using guns instead, marking a sharp escalation in the word war between the two candidates.
“A gun duel. Rich folks are afraid to die. What am I afraid of?” Duterte told Davao-based media in an interview on Tuesday after Roxas challenged him to fisticuffs at his home in Cubao, Quezon City.
Duterte insisted that Roxas never finished his degree at the Wharton School of Business, citing the claims of two congressmen who attended the same university.
The mayor added that whatever proof Roxas shows now is all “Recto-made,” referring to the fake diplomas that can be bought on C.M. Recto Avenue in Manila.
Earlier, Roxas said he would not back down from a fight with bullies like Duterte.
Asked about Duterte’s latest statements that he was ready to go to Roxas’ home for their slapping match, Roxas suggested they fight with fists instead.
“Talk, talk, talk. That’s what your’e doing always, Digong,” Roxas said, referring to Duterte by his nickname. “You talk too much. Cubao, Quezon City. I will wait for you,” a fuming Roxas said after a conference of Liberal Party congressmen at the LP National Headquarters in Quezon City.
“Do what you want. A slapping contest? Why stick to slapping? That’s for women. Let’s go at it with fists. This is simple. I’m a mild-mannered person who is looking after the good of our nation.”
“I’m mad at bullies, I’m angry at opportunists. I’m mad at those with iron fists. I’m mad at those who think that they are the powerful. If you think that you haven’t met your match, Digong—I’m here, I won’t back out.”
Roxas had started the word war with Duterte when he said the notion that Davao was the safest city in the country was a myth.
Duterte shot back and said Roxas’ degree from Wharton was a myth.
Roxas then said Duterte could slap him in the face if he could prove what he said about his education, but said he would slap Duterte instead if he could show that he indeed graduated from Wharton.
On Tuesay, Roxas also brought up Duterte’s speech at his proclamation by the PDP-Laban in which he cursed the Pope and admitted killing crime suspects without a trial.
Roxas acknowledged that challenging Duterte in this manner was not what he had in mind.
“You know, I haven’t held back my feelings and I’m dismayed with myself that I got distracted. I’m running for the presidency because we want to uplift our country,” he said.
But he added that there was a need to oppose bullies who want to lead the country.
In a forum in Davao City, Duterte hammered at Roxas’ education in Wharton.
“Mar graduated from the University of Pennsylvania—that’s correct—but he never graduated from Wharton as he claims,” Duterte said.
“A Wharton graduate is a person who finishes his masters degree at Wharton, meaning you are a graduate of MBA at Wharton. In your case, Mar, you are not, so don’t claim to be a man you cannot be, because you are not,” he said.
Duterte said Roxas might have attended the Wharton School but did not obtain a degree there.
A check with the university’s website shows that the Wharton School awards Bachelor of Science in Economics degrees and Master of Business Administration degrees at the postgraduate level.
But Roxas said Wharton itself had released information about his degree.
“It’s not my problem that Mayor Digong doesn’t believe the official release of my school. And that is not even the issue—If he doesn’t want to believe, then don’t. Wharton themselves in their website said that I studied and graduated,” Roxas said.
“With the many problems in our country, he’s quizzing me about my degree and where I graduated,” Roxas said.
He said if Duterte were a gentleman, he would simply admit he was wrong and apologize, instead of insisting on having his way.
“If that’s how he thinks, then we’ll let him be,” Roxas said.
On Monday night, the Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania confirmed that administration presidential candidate Mar Roxas was one of its alumni based on the records of the University of Pennsylvania registrar, a report from GMA News Online said.
Duterte, in an interview at Davao City claimed that he wasn’t even serious on his threat to slap Roxas, but would instead slap House Speaker Feliciano Belmonte who urged him to reveal the names of those he killed.
Roxas’ spokesperson Akbayan Rep. Ibarra Gutierrez said that while the LP standard bearer may have been provoked of Duterte’s pronouncements, he doesn’t know what will happen next should the slapping actually take place.
Senator Sergio Osmeña III likened Roxas and Duterte to high school students.
“We expect something more out of those two leaders who want to be president and maybe they can tone down their language and be more statesman-like in their debates,” said Osmeña, adding that the threat of a slapping match was out of line.
Although it was Duterte who first threatened to slap Roxas after the latter described the mayor’s crime buster image in Davao as a myth, Osmeña said the LP standard bearer should not have gone down to that level.
“We don’t settle our quarrels by fighting with each other,” Osmeña said.
Instead, the senator said Roxas could have challenged Duterte to a high-level presidential debate.
Osmeña also reminded Duterte that running for president was different from running for mayor.
“We’re appealing to both camps to bring the level of debate to statesman-like level,” he said.
The Palace distanced itself from the word war and said it was the Liberal Party that should comment on such topics.
Also on Tuesday, Duterte told the Commission on Human Rights to do its job well in gathering evidence against him, adding that they must not use his admissions to incriminate him.
“You work because that is your work,” he said, adding that the agency must be careful about having him summoned. “You have wasted my time not only once, or twice, but many times in the past.”
Duterte, who admitted in an interview on radio dzMM that he has pulled the trigger against erring criminals in his city, adding that he would replicate his anti-criminality campaign all over the country if elected president, said that the CHR should beef up its efforts to find him guilty of the crimes long atributed to him.
At the sidelines of a forum in Davao City Tuesday, Duterte said his remarks about killing criminals were so ridiculous that they had to be a joke.
“You need to get to know me better,” he told Manila-based journalists.
The CHR earlier said it would investigate Duterte’s human rights record, after he made several statements to take responsibility for the killing of criminals in Davao City.
“Why investigate me now? Are you investigating me because I am up against Roxas?” Duterte said Tuesday.
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