Filipino boxing icon and senator Manny Pacquiao spoke about his drug use in the past despite his friendship with President Rodrigo Duterte, whose fierce war on drugs has racked up a body count of around 3,000.
Pacquiao, known for the ringside moves that earned him millions, also admitted that Duterte, a close personal friend, was unaware that he had used illegal drugs as a young man.
The drugs included methamphetamine, locally known as shabu, marijuana and cocaine. Pacquiao said he used them “for years” but it was when he was a teenager and before he “became a champion”.
The friendship between the boxer known as “The Destroyer” and the president known as “The Punisher” dates back at least 15 years, to a boxing ring in Davao, where Duterte sponsored one of his fights.
Pacquiao also said Duterte was anointed by God to discipline the Filipino people. He is confident that his past use of illegal drugs would not ruin his relationship with Duterte, adding that the President was a man of second chances.
The side of Duterte that the public more frequently sees is the casually-dressed, cursing 71-year-old who aggressively presides over an anti-drug crusade in which police and vigilantes have killed around 3,000 people since he was sworn-in on June 30.
Pacquiao said pinning the body count on the president was unfair because it was drug lords and drug pushers who were killing one other.
WATCH: Pacquiao helps sideline one of Duterte’s most outspoken critics
Last week, Pacquiao helped sideline one of Duterte’s most outspoken critics, fellow Senator Leila De Lima, by leading a motion to oust her as the chair of a high-profile committee examining the president’s links to vigilante death squads in Davao during his time as mayor.
Pacquiao said his move against De Lima had nothing to do with the subject matter of the Senate inquiry.
“The committee should investigate and gather information and legislate, not to use the committee to persecute or single out a person like this administration. That’s what I’m trying to explain to the people, to the public, that it’s not my intention to remove her from the chairmanship of a committee of justice to stop the investigation. In fact, the investigation is to continue,” he said.
Until now, the boxing champ’s congressional career was notable mostly for his absence. When he was elected to the House of Representatives in 2013, he was present for just 20 of the 192 days he served in the three sessions he held office.
That changed abruptly when he was elected to the Senate in May, the same day that his friend and fraternity brother Duterte clinched the presidential vote.