Pacquiao admits past drug use but backs Duterte’s crackdown

Boxing star-turned-lawmaker, Manny Pacquiao says President Duterte doesn't know about his experience with drugs but added that he is confident it wouldn't damage their close relationship.

Photo by: Reuters (Archive)
Photo by: Reuters (Archive)

Pacquiao could not recall his first meeting with Duterte but said it was when he was 22 or 23.

Philippines boxing icon Emmanuel Pacquiao says he used all sorts of drugs when he was a teenager but now fully supports President Rodrigo Duterte, who has been pursuing a ferocious crackdown on drug-pushers since he rose to power in June.

Duterte’s anti-drugs campaign has in three-months killed more than 3,000 suspected drug pushers.

The boxer-turned-politician, Emmnuel Pacquiao, who is better known as Manny Pacquiao, is now a senator and a close ally of President Duterte.

According to Pacquiao, Duterte was anointed by God to discipline the Filipino people and his authority must be respected.

"The president, he doesn't know my experience with drugs," said Pacquiao, 37, adding he was confident it wouldn't damage their close relationship.

"He always gives a chance to people who want to be changed," he said in an interview in his senate office.

"I tried drugs...many kinds of drugs, all kinds of drugs," he said, dressed in the traditional white Filipino barong shirt and trousers.

Pacquiao said this phase lasted for years "before I became a champion".

Friendship with Duterte

The friendship between the boxer known as "The Destroyer" and the president known as "The Punisher" dates back at least 15 years as Pacquiao tells it, to a boxing ring in Davao, where Duterte helped organise one of his fights.

"He helped me a lot. He helped me with the promotion when I started in boxing. One of my fights held in Davao, he sponsored it," said Pacquiao, a southpaw who has been an eight-division world champion. "He helped with the promotion, financially as well."

Pacquiao has the initials of a group called Guardians Mindanao Brotherhood tattooed on his wrist, as does Duterte, according to media reports. "It's a fraternity," Pacquiao said.

Philippines President Rodrigo R. Duterte (L) with boxing icon and Senator Emmanuel D. Pacquiao. Source: AFP

Guardians Brotherhood started as a soldiers group that was later disbanded.

Pacquiao was born in the town of Kibawe in the Mindanao region of the southern Philippines, about 80 km (50 miles) from Davao city, where Duterte was mayor and congressman since 1988.

Coming from a humble background, Pacquiao did odd jobs to survive and stowed away on a boat to Manila as a teenager, where he started competitive boxing.

Pacquiao could not recall his first meeting with Duterte but said it was when he was 22 or 23. Since then, Pacquiao said they had frequently met for meals and that he is a godfather to Duterte's grandson.

Even now, Pacquiao says, Duterte often calls after a fight to congratulate him.

Duterte’s war against drugs

President Rodrigo Duterte, whose war against drugs is at the central part of his presidency, says narcotics are destroying the nation of 100 million people.

A total of 3,171 people have been killed since he took office on June 30, including users and pushers. Nearly two thirds were killed by unknown assailants and the rest in legitimate police operations, according to police.