Pacquiao gets in his biggest fight yet, the one for president

Gaea Katreena Cabico - Philstar.com

GENERAL SANTOS, Philippines (Updated February 9, 8:39 a.m.) — Manny Pacquiao, a world champion boxer-turned-politician, launched his 2022 presidential campaign—a bid centered on fighting corruption and poverty—in his hometown General Santos City on Tuesday.

Pacquiao, whose rag-to-riches rise has inspired many people, believes he should succeed President Rodrigo Duterte as the country’s leader because he knows what it’s like to be poor. 

“By the grace of God, sisiguraduhin ko ang bawat isa sa inyo, ang bawat Pilipino, panalo sa laban ni Manny Pacquiao,” he told thousands of people gathered at the city’s Oval Plaza.

(By the grace of God, I will make sure that every Filipino will win in the fight of Manny Pacquiao.)

“Sisiguraduhin ko ang bawat Pilipino may trabaho at hinahanap ng trabaho at sisiguraduhin ko sa inyo na walang mahirap na innagrabyado at inaapi.”

I will make sure that every Filipino has a job and that jobs will look for them. I will ensure that the poor are not aggrieved and oppressed.

He is running under the Progressive Movement for the Devolution of Initiatives (PROMDI) alongside Rep. Lito Atienza (Buhay party-list).  A rift within the administration PDP-Laban party has left it without an official standard-bearer, with Pacquiao running under an allied party and the candidate from the rival wing eventually withdrawing.

Pacquiao, one of the greatest pound-for-pound boxers of all time, is now facing his biggest and toughest battle yet: a bid for presidency. 

Despite his popularity, Pacquiao and Manila Mayor Francisco “Isko Moreno” Domagoso tied at the third spot in a survey conducted by Pulse Asia last December, with just eight percent of voter support. The son and namesake of ousted dictator Ferdinand Marcos topped the poll. 

Philanthropic politician

Marites Limas, a fish vendor in the country's tuna capital, said Filipinos should give Pacquiao a chance because he is kind and helpful, citing his housing project in neighboring Sarangani province. 

“Hindi naman siguro gaya ng sinasabi ng iba na basehan ‘yung kaaalaman sa pag-upo sa pagka-presidente. I-try lang nila si Manny baka makita nila kung ano ‘yung kakayahan niya o anong magagawa niya sa ating bansa,” Limas said. 

(I don't think you can base the ability to be president on education. They should give Manny a try, they might see what he can do for the country)

She hopes the politician will address the problem of joblessness and raise the minimum wage of workers. 

Michael Yusingco, senior research fellow at the Ateneo School of Government, said Pacquiao being a nice person may not be enough.

"It is quite obvious that Senator Pacman does not exude 'statesman' even though he appears very decent and appealing all the time," he said.

"And the fact that he has no track record in public office to boast about, makes it very hard to convince undecided voters that he can be our president. "

22-round agenda

Pacquiao has a “22-round agenda” for the Philippines, with key themes focused on eradicating corruption, providing employment and houses for Filipinos, improving the country’s healthcare system, and boosting economic development. 

Sociologist Athena "Ash" Presto said that since Pacquiao does not have a “favorable” political career, he needs to provide Filipinos concrete plans on how he would lead a country of 110 million people.

"Aside from his brand as a good philantropist, aside from his identity as coming from the people and having a heart for the people... his political run has been marred by absenteeism and very anti-human rights stances," she told Philstar.com

She added that Pacquiao is not the only presidential candidate with a rags-to-riches story. Moreno is a former garbage collector from the slums of Tondo and movie actor before leading the nation’s capital city. Vice President Leni Robredo and labor leader Leody de Guzman can also adopt the self-made narrative, Presto also said. 

Mindanao vote?

In his campaign kickoff in General Santos, Pacquiao was joined by broadcaster Raffy Tulfo and former Senate secretary Lutz Barbo—both running for seats in the upper chamber. 

Sen. Sherwin Gatchalian was represented by his girlfriend Bianca Manalo. Recorded messages of bets who were not in the city were played in the venue.

Pacquiao’s running mate Atienza was unable to join the opening rally because he was nursing a sprain. He said that Pacquiao will elevate the lives of Filipinos and urged supporters of Marcos to back a different “BBM”—“Buong Bansa, Manny.”

If he wins in the May elections, Pacquiao will be the second president from Mindanao. For that to happen, he needs to campaign hard and spend money on ads and campaign machinery, said Tony La Viña, former dean of the Manila-based Ateneo School of Government. 

"I am not sure if he can win the presidency just on that. But this candidacy could viable if he captures that vote (from Visayas and Mindanao)," he said. 


Disclosure: This story was made possible through the support of Sen. Manny Pacquiao's campaign, which arranged transportation and accommodations for the Philstar.com reporting team. This article was produced following editorial guidelines and the Pacquiao campaign did not have input on how the story would be written.

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