Malacañang on Wednesday questioned the timing of Senator Manny Pacquiao’s allegation that there is corruption in Department of Health (DOH) amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Sa akin po, absent po siguro si Senator Pacquiao nung nagprisinta yung mga Cabinet secretaries, or kung hindi siya absent he may have been preoccupied with something else,” presidential spokesperson Harry Roque said in an interview on state-run PTV-4.

(Senator Pacquiao must have been absent or preoccupied with something else when Cabinet secretaries discussed how the government will address the pandemic.)

“Nandun nga po siya nung naghi-hearing ang Senado at kung meron siyang mga tanong na ibinato kay Secretary Duque nung mga pagkakataon na ‘yun,” Roque added.

(Senator Pacquiao attended the Senate hearing on this and he could have asked Secretary Duque when he had that chance.)

Challenged by President Rodrigo Duterte on Monday night to name government offices that would show corruption under his administration, Pacquiao on Tuesday pointed to the DOH as he questioned how Health Secretary Francisco Duque III spent the pandemic response fund that the country loaned from various sectors.

Duterte lashed at Pacquiao over the lawmaker’s supposed comments that corruption has worsened under the current administration.

Duque, for his part, aid he was disheartened by Pacquiao’s allegation, maintaining that the DOH has “always been transparent and cooperative to auditing efforts within the government.”

“While we are disheartened by these baseless accusations from our government officials, we submit ourselves to inquiries from legislators as this is a part of the checks and balances in our government,” Duque said in a statement Tuesday.

Roque said the rift between Pacquiao and Duterte, who are both officials of the ruling PDP-Laban party, all boils down to politics connected to the 2022 elections.

“Pulitika po talaga. Pulitika po ang katapusan nito. Tingin ko maghuhusga ang taumbayan kung sino talaga mamumuno sa 2022 [This is all about politics. It’s up to the public to decide on who will rule in 2022),” he said.

For his part, Senator Aquilino Pimentel III, former party president and current executive vice chairman, said debating on corruption under the Duterte administration would be “pointless, endless.”

“Even the President has said that there is corruption in government. ‘Wag na lang  mag-waste (Just  don’t waste) time in debating whether this is times 2 or times 3 of a certain level of corruption because that would be a pointless and endless debate,” Pimentel said in a text message shared to reporters Wednesday. —KBK/RSJ, GMA News