Philippines boxing icon Pacquiao used drugs as a teen but backs Duterte

Thu Sep 29, 2016 9:32am EDT
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By Karen Lema and Clare Baldwin

MANILA (Reuters) - Philippines boxing icon Emmanuel "Manny" Pacquiao says he took all kinds of drugs as a teenager but fully supports President Rodrigo Duterte, whose vicious anti-drugs campaign has led to the killing of more than 3,000 people, mostly users and pushers, in three months.

Pacquiao, now a senator and a close ally of the president, also said 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," said the boxer-turned-lawmaker 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".

Duterte, who took office on June 30, has made the war on drugs the central part of his presidency, saying narcotics are destroying the nation of 100 million people. A total of 3,171 people have been killed since then, including users and pushers, nearly two thirds by unknown assailants and the rest in legitimate police operations, according to police.

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 organize one of his fights.   Continued...

Philippine Senator and boxing champion Manny Pacquiao listens as fellow Senator Leila De Lima (not pictured) delivers a privilege speech at the Senate in Pasay city, Metro Manila, Philippines September 20, 2016. REUTERS/Erik De Castro