Pacquiao First to File as Philippine Election Season Officially Begins

Aie Balagtas See and Jeoffrey Maitem
Manila and Cotabato, Philippines
2021-10-01
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Pacquiao First to File as Philippine Election Season Officially Begins Manny Pacquiao (right) and Congressman Lito Atienza, the former boxer’s father figure when he struggled as an athlete, show their certificates of candidacies for president and vice president in the 2022 Philippine polls, after filing with the Commission on Elections at a hotel in Manila, Oct. 1 2021.
FOCAP Pool/BenarNews

International boxing icon Manny Pacquiao became the first Filipino to file candidacy papers for the 2022 presidential race, as the usually rowdy official kickoff to campaigning in the Philippines got off to a subdued start on Friday.

The country of 110 million will hold a general election next May to choose a successor to President Rodrigo Duterte and his deputy, as well as fill 12 Senate seats, all 316 House seats, and some 18,000 official positions ranging from governors to mayors and town councilors.

“My candidacy is not just for myself and my family but for the entire Filipino nation so that we can lift them out of poverty and suffering,” said Pacquiao after filing papers along with his running mate, Congressman Lito Atienza.

Pacquaio arrived at the makeshift registration center inside a Manila hotel with his wife. They rode there in a bus emblazoned with “man of destiny” and “son of the poor” – references to the eight-time world boxing champion’s humble beginnings.

Hundreds of fans and supporters in face masks lined the streets, cheering on his convoy passed by on the way to the hotel. Some held Pacquiao’s portrait, while others waved Philippine flags.

The 42-year-old ex-boxer, who retired from the ring this week, promised to revive the country’s pandemic-hit economy and create jobs while fighting corruption. His remarks were directed at his former ally, Duterte, whose administration Pacquaio has criticized in recent months for alleged corruption and the mishandling of the COVID-19 outbreak.

“My priority is to resolve the pandemic so we can drive the economy to recovery,” Pacquiao said. He wore a maroon shirt and a face mask bearing his image.

Starting Friday, the presidential hopefuls have until Oct. 8 to file their papers for next year’s election.

Amid high daily infection rates, authorities have put in place strict protocols to prevent the election-related events from becoming super-spreaders, with a large number of supporters barred from joining the candidates.

On Friday, security forces guarded the perimeter leading to the hotel where election officials received the nominations for candidacies.

The field already is packed with possible contenders. These include a television celebrity, a political scion, a police chief, an incumbent vice president, and the president’s daughter.

Because the constitution bars Rodrigo Duterte, 76, from running for a second term, he has announced plans to contest the vice presidency.

In the Philippines, voters elect their president and vice president on separate tickets. This means that holders of the top two political offices could be from rival parties or partisan factions, as is the case with Duterte and his vice president, Leni Robredo, an opposition powerhouse.

Among those expected to vie with Pacquaio for the presidency is Robredo. On Thursday, an opposition coalition nominated the vice president as its 2022 presidential candidate. She thanked them for the nomination but said she had not made up her mind yet.

Other popular contenders include Francisco Domagoso, a former actor who is the mayor of Manila; Panfilo Lacson, a veteran senator and a former police chief; and Ferdinand Marcos Jr., the son of the late dictator by the same name.

The president’s daughter and mayor of Davao City, Sara Duterte, has been leading the opinion polls in recent months, even though she has not officially announced her bid.

‘Candidate with a pure heart’

The candidacy of Pacquiao, who is a senator, has drawn mixed reactions. However, the retired boxing champ, who rose to international stardom out of poverty in the Philippines, remains a hero to many Filipinos.

“I will vote for Manny Pacquiao because he is the only candidate with a pure heart for the people,” said Ronnie Bayad, a 42-year-old laborer in Cotabato, in the southern Philippines.

He said his idol’s success had inspired many ordinary Filipinos in the conflict-scarred south to work hard to leave poverty.

For Khalid Mustapha, a public transport driver, a possible win for Pacquiao would mean more projects to benefit ordinary people.

But for undergraduate student Emmy Amores, a fan of the boxing icon, Pacquiao was entering an unfamiliar world.

“Please listen to public opinion,” she said, closely watching the live broadcast of Pacquiao’s candidacy. “We love you in boxing, but please give the presidency to others.”

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