Diana G. Mendoza
Manila– Manny Pacquiao will face what may be the biggest and boldest fight he will ever have in his life, this time in a different ring -- the 2022 presidential race in the Philippines.
Emmanuel “Manny” Pacquiao, 42, the only eight-division world boxing champion, threw his hat in the usually rowdy Philippine elections when he accepted last Sunday, Sept. 19, 2021, his nomination as the standard bearer of a faction of the PDP-Laban political party.
Wearing a red shirt and with both hands raised beside Senator Aquilino Pimentel III, son of his namesake father who founded the political party, Pacquiao said, “Yes, I accept,” referring to his nomination during a national assembly and video conference in Quezon City in Metro Manila.
“I am a fighter and I will always be a fighter inside and outside the ring. In my life, I have never backed down because… I need to stand up and fight,” he said. “We are fed up with promises of change. Our people ask when their hardship will end. The time is now. We are ready to rise to the challenge of leadership.”
With some media reports calling his statements as classic underdog rhetoric, they quoted the boxer-turned-senator as saying, “It’s time for the downtrodden to win. It’s time for our nation to rise up from poverty. It’s time for us to have a clean government where every centavo will go to every Filipino.”
The party where he is running under is a faction of the same party headed by President Rodrigo Duterte, who is grooming another senator, his longtime aide, as its candidate. The party infighting has severed ties between Duterte and Pacquiao, who is now accusing the President of running a corrupt government that has failed to respond to the coronavirus pandemic.
After rising to world fame with an impressive boxing career, Pacquiao was elected senator in 2016 after having been a congressman for two consecutive terms in his native Sarangani province in 2010. He continued fighting in high-profile matches simultaneous with his political career, earning criticisms for his poor attendance and performance in Congress.
Critics and observers have called Pacquiao a turncoat for being a former ally and enabler and now a vocal critic of Duterte and his government. Others condemn his penchant for quoting the Bible and imposing his religious faith on issues such as sexual and reproductive rights. Among his legislative proposals is for designating a National Bible Day.
After news of his presidential nomination, entertainer John Lapus posted on Twitter his rant against Pacquiao for a controversial interview he gave a few years back comparing LGBT persons who enter into same-sex unions as ”worse than animals.” “Never forget,” Lapus tweeted.
Still, others decry his display of wealth, particularly his wife Jinkee who posts photos of her expensive clothes and shoes at a time when many Filipinos are poor and of late, a massive number are unemployed because of the pandemic.
With a reported net worth of P3.18 billion ($150 million), Pacquiao is one of the two richest senators in the Philippines.
In an earlier TV interview, he batted for free housing to marginalized urban dwellers especially those in the country’s capital.
Pacquiao’s presidential run comes after his defeat in boxing last month in the hands of Cuba’s Yordenis Ugas, which prompted speculations that he will finally retire.
But instead of retiring from waning boxing wins and from his lackluster political career, the world’s most phenomenal boxer is trying yet another fight, one that will determine if he indeed can be a leader to his nation.