Manny Pacquiao’s rise to boxing superstardom was unprecedented for a Filipino. His is the original narrative of what is literally a rags-to-riches story starting in the provincial hinterland and ending up in the big city looking for his future. Now, Pacquiao is up for the biggest match of his life after declaring he is running for President.
What does Manny bring to the Presidential dais? Unfortunately, NOTHING. Pacquiao’s starting premise is that he is qualified for the Presidency because he came from poverty and understands what Filipinos need from government in order to rise above poverty. No one has told him it’s not as simple as that. Getting elected into office isn’t easy. Pacquiao himself found this out when he first ran for Congressman in General Santos. Up against the powerful Antonino clan, Pac-Man lost. He had to transfer to the Sarangani congressional district to win.
He had no formal education so Pacquiao wasn’t equipped to step up to the challenge of legislation. He didn’t have an adviser who could show him how to go about being a Congressman. He was also busy with his boxing career and was more absent than present in the House of Representatives. He gained nothing from the experience. After only one term, he decided to make the jump to the Senate. He was elected into office again. This time, Manny vowed to spend more time as a Senator than a boxer. That didn’t happen again. Having become accustomed to a high-maintenance lifestyle, Pacquiao needed to build up his financial reserves. Since coming into money, there have been no reports of his being able to establish a successful business. His expenses include not only his immediate family, but also his extended family, both his and his wife’s side. It didn’t help that one of his acquisitions was the ultimate status symbol; a mansion in Forbes Park.
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Pac-Man didn’t hide his political ambition. In 2016, he dumped Jojo Binay in favor of Rodrigo Duterte. He had been friends with the Davao Mayor when he was going up the boxing ladder. The same with the Pastor who was also in Duterte’s camp. Pacquiao availed of the opportunity given by Binay’s University of Makati (UMak) to obtain a college degree. It was later discovered that it was in fact invalid because it wasn’t covered by a Commission on Higher Education (CHED) special order which is a requirement for students under an alternative learning program. Pacquiao didn’t attend college under normal circumstances. Bottomline, he probably didn’t even bother at all. UMak just gave him the degree in Political Science nonetheless.
The question in the public’s mind is what prompted Pacquiao to seek the Presidency? The answer lies with Koko Pimentel. PDP-Laban was a moribund political party until Jojo Binay decided to use it as his vehicle for higher office. It was under this party that he ran for the Vice-Presidency in an alliance with Joseph Estrada in 2010. The falling out between Binay and Pimentel began shortly thereafter when the younger Pimentel won his electoral protest against Juan Miguel Zubiri, forcing the latter to resign. Binay wanted to adopt Zubiri as a candidate, a proposal Pimentel refused. It was then that the demolition of Binay began in earnest at the Senate with Pimentel taking the lead and Sen. Alan Cayetano and Antonio Trillanes as the hatchet men.
Pimentel peré et fil struck gold with Rodrigo Duterte running for President. Duterte had been a member of PDP-Laban at its inception as an advocate of federalism for Mindanao, the brainchild of Pimentel Sr. and Reuben Canoy. Duterte’s victory made PDP-Laban the dominant political party and handed the Senate Presidency to Koko on a silver platter. The Pimentels had long been opposed to Marcos, the elder having made his mark as the renegade Mayor of Cagayan De Oro during martial law. The alliance with Duterte wasn’t a natural fit as Duterte was leaning more towards the Marcoses against his mother, Soling, who led the anti-Marcos protests in Davao City. Soling’s activism was the reason that Duterte was appointed Officer-in-Charge (OIC) Vice-Mayor of Davao after Ferdinand Marcos was ousted. Pimentel couldn’t be trusted with protecting Duterte in the Senate and it was for this reason that he was replaced by Majority Leader Tito Sotto.
Pacquiao’s candidacy is nothing more than a ploy to split the Duterte voter base in Visayas and Mindanao. This was why Pimentel unilaterally made Pacquiao acting Party President around August 2020 which caused the resignation of Secretary-General Pantaleon Alvarez. Duterte kept out of the fray until Pacquiao suddenly came out criticizing the administration. He formed his own team with Pimentel’s loyal aide, Ronwald Munsayac on loan to him as Chief of Staff. What is ironic now is 1Sambayan talking with Pacquiao after lead convenor Antonio Carpio writing him off as being unqualified for inclusion in 1Sambayan’s presidential selection process because of his absences in the House and Senate.
What is evident now is the Opposition is desperate. Robredo needs a running mate. The most likely scenario is Pac-Man slides down as Vice-President to divide the votes of the President if he pushes through with his VP candidacy. The Bisaya voting bloc knows better and it won’t be as successful as the Opposition leaders think. But it gives impetus to a Robredo presidential run which would be a return bout with Bongbong Marcos if the administration fields a Marcos-Duterte ticket should the President decide that Inday Sara “Daughterte” will not run for President.
Marcos Jr., is a very divisive candidate. He cannot win on his own which is why he needs the elder Duterte as his running mate. A Daughterte-Marcos ticket isn’t a political slamdunk. Daughterte is vulnerable in Luzon and the National Capital Region (NCR) when up against Sen. Ping Lacson and Isko Moreno. I would think the President sees this vulnerability as well which is why he decided to accept the PDP-Laban nomination. The endgame scenario for the administration is a Marcos-Duterte ticket with a Senate line-up of new faces to add to the Duterte incumbents in the upper chamber. Former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo (GMA) is running in her Pampanga district again which means that she will again contend to become Speaker of the House. It is only with this strategy that the constitutional amendments needed can be passed.
Duterte is not likely to leave the job undone. He would probably have a different outlook if the pandemic didn’t happen. With his approval rating at an all-time high despite the efforts of the Opposition to discredit him and his achievements in terms of infrastructure and social services he has tucked under his belt and his no-nonsense style of communication, Duterte is going into the political ring one last time to cement his legacy and ensure a brighter future for Filipinos.
National artist F. Sionil Jose has thought of him as deserving consideration as one of the greatest Presidents the country ever had, in his mind, I think the man is actually going to go for it. The opportunity is too great to pass up. Destiny is calling again and Duterte won’t pass up on it.
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