By Karen Lema
MANILA (Reuters) – More than 10 billion pesos ($204 million) in pandemic aid intended for poor Philippine families is unaccounted for, boxer-turned-senator Manny Pacquiao said on Saturday, adding this was just one of the discoveries in his corruption investigation.
Pacquiao on Thursday accepted Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte’s challenge to show evidence of corruption in his government, and the boxing superstar said his findings about missing funds were the tip of the iceberg.
“That is just one of the things I have discovered. It has only been three days since I accepted your challenge to present proof,” said Pacquiao, who found himself in Duterte’s crosshairs after he railed at alleged corruption in government as well as the president’s friendly relationship with China.
Irene Dumlao, spokesperson at the Department of Social Welfare and Development which is overseeing the distribution of cash aid, said the agency would cooperate with any investigation.
“There are many families who are hungry and yet billions and billions of money are being stolen in government,” Pacquiao said in a virtual briefing, pointing to documents on his desk.
Pacquiao, 42, had long been among Duterte’s strongest supporters, but is seen as a possible contender when the leader’s six-year term ends next year.
“You should not be mad at me,” Pacquiao told the president before leaving the country to prepare for a fight next month. “I only wanted to help.”
Pacquiao alleged the intended beneficiaries of 10.4 billion pesos worth of cash aid did not receive anything, but records showed they did. “Where did the money go?” he asked.
($1 = 49.1000 Philippine pesos)
(Reporting by Karen Lema; Editing by David Holmes)