Legendary boxer and current Philippine Senator Manny Pacquiao will seek the Philippines’ highest political office next summer, Pacquiao’s spokesman confirmed to CNN Philippines over the weekend.
“I want everyone to know … Manny ‘Pacman’ Pacquiao is going to run for president,” Sen. Pacquiao’s spokesman, Monico Puentevella, told the news outlet on July 23.
“He will file his candidacy,” Puentevella said. The Philippines’ next presidential election is scheduled for May 9, 2022, as part of the country’s general election that year.
“He is very serious,” Puentevella continued. “That’s why he always tells me, ‘Tell them: This is it. This is our last fight.'”
Puentevella referred to Pacquiao’s upcoming boxing match against the U.S. welterweight world champion Errol Spence, Jr., in Las Vegas, Nevada, on August 21. In addition to his senatorial duties, Pacquiao maintains an active boxing career and is currently in the U.S. training for his upcoming bout.
Puentevella is a former Philippine mayor and congressman. He currently serves as one of Pacquiao’s political advisers and told CNN Philippines last Friday the boxer-turned-legislator “requested him to speak on his behalf when it comes to political issues” over the next month so he “could focus on preparing” for his August 21 fight.
Puentevella said he and Pacquiao “were already working on his candidacy” for the Philippine presidency in 2022 “before Pacquiao left for the US on July 3.”
The spokesman said he and the rest of Pacquiao’s political team are waiting for the senator to return to the Philippines after his August 21 boxing match so that they may “sit down with him” and “discuss” who they will choose as his vice-presidential running mate, in addition to lining up a replacement roster for his expected Senate vacancy.
Asked by CNN Philippines “if it’s possible Pacquiao would give way to another presidential candidate and seek reelection [to the Philippine Senate] or the vice presidency instead,” Puentevella said, “It’s out of the question.”
Pacquiao has had a replacement senatorial lineup prepared “for the longest time but [it is] still very tentative,” Philippine Senator Koko Pimentel revealed to CNN Philippines via text message on July 23.
“Pacquiao himself will make the announcement on whether he’ll run for President or not in September, along with his running mate and senatorial slate,” Sen. Pimentel added, echoing Puentevella’s statement.
A faction of politicians loyal to current Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte ousted both Pacquiao and Pimentel from the Philippines’ ruling party, PDP-Laban, on July 17. Duterte, who also serves as PDP-Laban Chairman, oversaw the vote that stripped Pacquiao of his short-lived role as PDP-Laban President, to which he was elected in December 2020. The same vote also expelled Pacquiao ally Pimentel from his position as PDP-Laban Executive Vice-Chairman. Observers interpreted the ouster as an act of revenge by Duterte after his former ally Pacquiao openly criticized the Philippine president in the press in recent weeks. Pacquiao in May accused Duterte of failing to sufficiently denounce China’s most recent illegal occupation of Philippine sovereign territory in the disputed South China Sea. Duterte responded by dismissing Pacquiao’s foreign policy knowledge as “shallow.”
Pacquiao on June 20 accused the Philippine Department of Health (DOH) of graft under its current secretary, Francisco Duque III, appointed by Duterte in 2017. The allegation came one day after Duterte publicly challenged Pacquiao to name allegedly corrupt Philippine government officials and agencies under his administration. Pacquiao had alluded to but not specifically identified graft within Duterte’s administration during a December 2020 interview.
“I expect him to sit in Congress, do not go anywhere, finish and find out the corruption that you are talking about. If you’re only going to report for a month or two, then I would say that you are a shit,” Duterte said during a press conference on July 1.
“Do your job. You asked for it. The papers are there. Start investigating, don’t go elsewhere. Comply first with your duty as a senator. Finish that, the papers are there, and don’t be absent,” the president added.
Pacquiao has regularly missed sessions of the Philippine Senate to train for boxing matches since he was elected to the legislative body in 2016. His five years of service in the Philippine Senate have been part of a carefully executed plan by Pacquiao to eventually run for the Philippines’ highest political office, according to political observers. Pacquiao launched his major Philippine political career in May 2010, when he was elected to the Philippine Congress representing Sarangani Province. He served two terms as a Philippine congressman before gaining a larger political seat on the Philippine Senate. Pacquiao had aligned himself with President Duterte’s government since then, though the relationship between the two has suffered from political in-fighting in recent weeks.