"He should immediately show proof of his allegations."
Senator and veteran prize fighter Emmanuel “Manny” Pacquiao may not be aware of it, but he has painted himself into a corner—and not of the boxing ring type.
By making public accusations that there is corruption in the government of President Rodrigo Duterte, particularly in the Department of Health (DOH), Pacquiao placed himself in a predicament that may prove very difficult for him to get out of.
President Duterte has made anti-corruption a quest in his administration, and he has not taken nicely to the accusations made by Pacquiao. To put it mildly, the President is very upset with the senator. As far as Malacañang is concerned, Pacquiao is politicking because he has a moist eye for the highest office in the land. The presidential election is, after all, less than a year away.
It started with intramurals in the PDP-Laban, the political party with which both President Duterte and Pacquiao are affiliated. Duterte is the party chairman and Pacquiao is its president.
Pacquiao had been washing the dirty laundry of PDP-Laban in public by complaining that the party had been holding meetings of party top brass without his permission. That matter should have been kept as an issue within the party because the last thing the party needs in the months prior to the election season is an internal conflict. Because Pacquiao chose to expose the party’s intramurals to the media, many in PDP-Laban are displeased with him.
For them, Pacquiao does not care about party unity, and that he views the party’s intramurals as a chance to invite public attention to himself.
That problem was followed by Pacquiao’s accusations about alleged corruption in the government, a move that came as a surprise to everyone, including the administration, the fragmented political opposition groups, and the media.
Naturally, Pacquiao’s accusations angered President Duterte, who challenged the senator to produce proof to support those accusations. Even the DOH, the agency in the crosshairs of Pacquiao’s accusations, denied the senator’s allegations of corruption and told the senator that the agency is ready to face any investigation.
As anybody who observes political processes knows, one who alleges corruption in the government and makes a public issue out of it bears the burden of proving his accusations. So far, Pacquiao has not bothered to substantiate his allegations of corruption. In stark contrast, the DOH already produced documents to belie Pacquiao’s accusations.
President Duterte is particularly pissed with Pacquiao’s having left for Los Angeles in the United States to prepare for a boxing match there, without bothering to substantiate the damning accusations he made against the government.
Observers say that Pacquiao deliberately left for abroad without providing proof of his accusations, for two possible reasons—to vex the administration while he is abroad, or he simply does not have the required proof.
There is public speculation that if Pacquiao wins his bout abroad, he thinks that his boxing victory will elate the voters enough to forget about his allegations of corruption and idolize him anew all the way to the presidency in 2022.
Other observers opine that Pacquiao simply and selfishly considers his boxing match more important than the need for him to substantiate his accusations.
More telling is the fact that Pacquiao has not bothered to file a resolution in the Senate urging a probe of the alleged corruption.
That was enough for Senator Richard Gordon, the head of the Senate Blue Ribbon committee which investigates allegations of corruption in the bureaucracy, to announce that the Senate cannot start a probe on the sole basis of newspaper narratives.
“No Pacquiao, no probe,” Gordon said in a news interview.
Unless Pacquiao substantiates his charges, whatever little credibility he has will get diluted.
Moreover, there is a limit to the gullibility of the electorate. They cannot be always expected to consider Pacquiao’s victories in the boxing ring as a collective excuse for his manifest limitations as a legislator.
Under the surrounding circumstances, it seems that Pacquiao has only one viable political option left for him.
Since President Duterte is staunchly against corruption in his administration, Pacquiao should immediately take steps to prove his allegations, even by sending instructions to his staff from his whereabouts in Los Angeles.
If he proves his allegations, then he will arm President Duterte with the necessary evidence to kick out the alleged crooks in his administration. That way, Pacquiao will get to help the President fight corruption, and he can even proudly tout himself as a crusader against anomalies in public office.
That strategy is the only way Pacquiao can save whatever credibility he has left, not as a legislator, but as a conspicuous public official eyeing the presidency.