Boxing Great Manny Pacquiao May Be the Philippines’ Next President

Manny Pacquiao celebrates his split-decision victory over Keith Thurman in their WBA welterweight title fight at MGM Grand Garden Arena on July 20, 2019 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
Ethan Miller/Getty Images

Legendary boxer and Philippine Senator Manny Pacquiao reignited speculation that he will run for the Philippine presidency in 2022 this month after he was elected president of the country’s ruling PDP-Laban party.

PDP-Laban is the political party of the current Philippine president, Rodrigo Duterte, who in December 2017 said he hoped Pacquiao would succeed him as the country’s top leader.

“I told him while we were alone, I want you to become president,” Duterte said during a speech at Pacquiao’s 39th birthday party in Manila.

When Pacquiao’s six-year senatorial term ends in 2022, he will become eligible to seek another term or higher office, including the presidency. The Philippine president is allowed to serve just one, six-year term, meaning Duterte will be ineligible to run for reelection when his current term ends in 2022. Many political observers consider either Pacquiao or Duterte’s politician daughter, Sara Duterte, to be the frontrunner in the next campaign for the Philippines’ highest office.

Speculation that Pacquiao could eventually seek the Philippine presidency precedes his election as head of the national ruling party on December 2.

Pacquiao’s former boxing promoter, Bob Arum, has told reporters on at least two occasions that the boxer-turned-senator has privately expressed a desire to run for president.

“I did a telephone call with him,” Arum said in June, according to the Philippine Inquirer.

“Bob, I’m gonna run in 2022 and when I win, I want you there at my inauguration,” Pacquiao allegedly told his ex-promoter.

“Pacquiao denied that he discussed any plans about running for president with Arum,” the newspaper noted.

Rumors aside, Pacquiao has methodically laid a foundation for himself to ascend to the role of president over the past several years, starting with his election to the Philippine Congress representing Sarangani Province in May 2010. He served two terms as a congressman before being elected to a Philippine Senate seat in May 2016. Since then, Pacquiao has aligned himself with Duterte’s government.

When asked by ESPN in December 2019 if he sees himself succeeding Duterte as the Philippines’ next populist leader, Pacquiao responded, “Populist? I’m not thinking about that. What I’m thinking is to share my knowledge about humanity, relationship to God, about being fair to everyone and compassionate.”

“Where I am right now is God’s will,” Pacquiao added, acknowledging ESPN’s allusion to his possible run for the presidency in 2022.

“I think it is a calling,” the senator said of his political leadership.

“We make this country great again,” Pacquiao added with a wry chuckle.

Dynastic families have traditionally dominated politics in the Philippines, and Pacquiao’s family appears to be building its own political status. Pacquiao’s brothers, Bobby and Ruel, are Philippine congressmen. His wife, Jinkee, is a former vice governor of her native Sarangani Province. The still-active boxer’s co-trainer, Buboy Fernandez, is the vice mayor of the Philippine municipality Polangui.

When asked most recently on December 2 whether he plans to run for president in 2022, Pacquiao answered:

“Let’s not talk politics. We should focus on helping our hungry countrymen, the poor and [those who] have no shelter. The elections are still far away, let’s not talk about it,” he said, shortly after being sworn in as PDP-Laban’s new president.

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