President Rodrigo Duterte (File photo from Malacaãng)

MANILA, Philippines — President Rodrigo Duterte explained on Wednesday why he went to a posh mall in Makati last Saturday: He wanted to meet with an ex-girlfriend.

Sen. Richard Gordon had earlier criticized Duterte for visiting luxury watch stores on that day with Sen. Christopher Go, his former aide, who had just filed his certificate of candidacy for the vice presidency in the 2022 elections.

Gordon questioned the propriety of looking at luxury watches in the middle of a pandemic.

READ: Gordon hits Duterte, Go over visit to luxury watch stores; Go cries ‘malice’

READ: Bong Go files candidacy for vice president in 2022 polls

In his defense, Duterte said he was only meeting an old flame during his mall visit, though he admitted looking at watches.

“I went to the store because there was someone I wanted to meet —  my girlfriend before. We’re already separated,” Duterte said, speaking in Filipino, during his televised briefing.

Duterte said his wife knew about his ex-girlfriend.

“She was my girlfriend when I was a congressman. After Congress [work],  I would pass by [the watch stores] and look around. That when I met her,” he said.

“I really had a girlfriend… But my wife knew about it. I was not hiding anything,” he added.

Last Saturday, he said, he did look at watches.

“I wanted to walk around. We went into jewelry stores. It’s true. It’s true that I looked at watches. Who doesn’t nice-looking watches?” he added.

Then Duterte again mentioned Gordon’s failure to pay back the P86 million in government funds the Commission on Audit supposedly disallowed the senator when he was chairman of Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority.

“Now, the problem is: If you have money, like you who had P86 million, how many watches can you buy? That’s why I noticed it, why I pointed it out,” Duterte said.

“Every time we would meet — the last time you were wearing a Rolex. I didn’t steal a watch. It’s you who stole from the government  P86 million,” he added.

He had earlier called on Gordon to pay the P86 million, saying that it would be used to buy COVID-19 vaccines.

READ: Duterte to Gordon: Pay ‘disallowed’ funds; we need it to buy COVID-19 vaccines

Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque earlier said Duterte only bought cookies — not a high-end watch.

READ: Duterte just ‘bought cookies’ not luxury watch in weekend mall visit


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