President Rodrigo Duterte did not purchase any high-end watch during his side trip to a mall, according to Palace.
Duterte and his former long-time aide were previously spotted walking in the luxury watch section of a mall in Makati City after the latter filed his certificate of candidacy for vice presidency on October 2.
Sen. Richard Gordon, member of the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee, brought up this incident during the resumption of the probe into the Pharmally controversy.
The local pharmaceutical firm is being investigated over the anomalous multi-billion peso deal it inked with the national government.
Gordon was initially talking about Pharmally executives purchasing luxury cars after securing their contracts with the government.
He then likened it to Duterte’s previous visit to Greenbelt Mall in Makati.
“Dumurugo na ang puso ng bayan, kumita na sila, may kotse na sila…ang gaganda at mamahalin. Mayroon po tayong tinatawag sa civil code: conspicuous consumption in times of crisis. May krisis po tayo, nakuha pa nila bumili,” Gordon said.
“Parang inyong Presidente at saka si Secretary (sic) Bong Go noong matapos sila mag-file ng candidacy, hindi ko maintindihan bakit sila nagpunta sa isang gusali na nagtitinda ng mamahaling relo, doon sa isang mamahaling department store,” he added.
Gordon further denounced the chief executive over the mall visit amid the still prevailing COVID-19 pandemic.
“Wala na ba tayong budhi mga kaibigan? Di ba natin nalalaman na nahihirapan na ang mga tao, pupunta pa tayo sa lugar na marangya, ang nakakabili lang eh ‘yung mga may pera, hindi natin alam saan galing,” he said.
‘Purely by chance’
In response to this, presidential spokesperson Harry Roque confirmed that Duterte did make a side trip to the mall.
READ: The Palace clarified on Tuesday (Oct. 5) that President Rodrigo Duterte “made a sidetrip to a mall” after accompanying Senator Cristopher “Bong” Go’s filing of his certificate of candidacy (COC) for vice president last Saturday (Oct. 2).
— PTVph (@PTVph) October 5, 2021
However, the Palace official emphasized that it was only “purely by chance” that the president passed by the part of the mall selling luxury watches.
“The President passed by stores selling high-end watches inside the mall. This was purely by chance since the watch stores are situated near the entrance of the mall,” the presidential spokesman said.
He said Duterte went inside one of the stores because he happened to be friends with one of the salespersons there.
“The President, however, did not purchase any watch but he went inside because he personally knew the tindera selling those watches. They are his amiga since he was still a mayor 15 years ago and had a few minutes of conversation,” the Palace spokesman said.
Roque then relayed Duterte’s direct response to Gordon.
“The President prides himself in wearing inexpensive watches. The President reckons it is probably Senator Richard Gordon who has a collection given that he owes the Philippine government P86 million,” he said.
In an earlier statement, Roque described Gordon’s accusations as “malicious.”
“PRRD stayed for a few minutes and bought cookies – not a high-end watch, as one senator maliciously implied,” he said.
The Palace official said Duterte was also only checking how businesses are faring amid the gradual reopening of the economy.
“President Duterte went around personally checking how businesses are faring with the re-opening of industries and the economy,” he said.