Palace downplays Pacquiao's corruption allegations
Malacanang dismissed on Monday corruption allegations by Senator Manny Pacquiao against the Duterte administration, particulary on three departments, likening them to "watusi" and not to an "atom bomb," which it initially expected.
A watusi is a Christmas firework, which creates a low sound.
"Well, it's a watusi! I thought it's an atom bomb...(the allegations) are nonsense because they are generalized allegations, no bill of particulars, no specific instance, no evidence, there's even no follow up," said Presidetial Spokesperson Harry Roque in a press briefing.
Echoing the statement of one senator, Roque wondered how the Senate could investigate the alleged corruption in the Department of Social Welfare and Development, Department of Energy, and Department of Health if Pacquiao, the proponent, is not in the country.
"Who will ask? The job of the Senate is not like that. He should do first his job as a senator, prove his allegations because if not, what Senator Pacquiao said were just politics," Roque said.
Pacquiao left for the United States last Sunday to prepare for his boxing match against Errol Spence Jr. in Las Vegas on August 21.
But before he left, last Saturday, Pacquiao, in a press conference, questioned the alleged questionable distribution of financial assistance to the poor family under the Social Amelioration Program amid the coronavirus pandemic.
He also questioned the DOE's awarding of contract to a private firm without undergoing the bidding process and for the DOH's procurement of nearly expiring medicines.
In the same press briefing, DSWD Secretary Rolando Bautista expressed readiness to face any investigation and to submit the necessary documents to clarify Pacquiao's allegations.
He said all SAP funds distributed by financial service providers were all accounted for and the DSWD has properly liquidated the funds.
DOE Secretary Alfonso Cusi, in a statement, challenged Pacquiao to prove his allegation against his agency "with substantial and convincing evidence."
"As with all whistle blowers, he should be held accountable for his statements, and be responsible enough not to issue a defamatory statement and then just up and leave," said Cusi, who had a falling out with Pacquiao despite being both with the ruling PDP-Laban political party.
Duterte is the chairman of PDP; Pacquiao is the president; and Cusi, the vice president.
Cusi said there was no corruption in the establishment of the Indpendent Market Operator, stressing that its establishment was in compliance with the Electric Power Industry Reform Act.
"Sen. Pacquiao’s unfounded allegations involving billions of pesos seems to be an attempt to remain relevant so that people will continue to talk about him while he is abroad doing his job and getting paid millions of dollars," Cusi said.
The DOH also denied Pacquiao's allegation that it was buying near-expiry medicines.
Roque said it will be up to Pacquiao if he will pursue for an investigation by the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee on his corruption allegations.
But he added, "He (Pacquiao) cannot do it because he left the country - absent!"
On Pacquiao's statement that he wanted to meet with Duterte, Roque said he did not know what else the senator would want to discuss with the President considering that he already made allegations before the media.
"So, if he really wanted to talk to the President, he should not prioritize the media," he said.
In a public briefing, Presidential Anti-Corruption Commission chairman Greco Belgica said it was "still not ripe" for Pacquiao to conclude that there was really corruption in the three agencies that he mentioned since no complete investigation yet.
He also said there was nothing new on the senator's accusations.
Duterte became irked by Pacquiao's earlier statement that corruption under his administration was thrice more compared with the previous administrations. This prompted the President to challenge his former ally to prove his claim and list down all the alleged corrupt agencies. Celerina Monte/DMS