Pacquiao ‘praying over’ 2022 plans
MANILA, Philippines — Sen. Manny Pacquiao on Thursday said he continued to “pray over” his political future as rumors swirled that he was planned to run for a higher national office in 2022.
In a Viber message sent by his staff, Pacquiao, who was installed as the new president of the Partido Demokratikong Pilipino-Lakas ng Bayan (PDP-Laban) on Wednesday evening, said his only goal at the moment was “to be able to better help the people in the grassroots, especially the survivors of recent disasters.”
The boxing champion, who has won titles in eight divisions, took his oath alongside Speaker Lord Allan Velasco, who was elected as executive vice president.
Too earlyBut party leaders immediately doused speculation that Pacquiao was being groomed as a candidate for a higher national office in 2022, saying it was too early to talk about the next elections.
“Most people see political parties as mere vehicles for campaigning but [PDP-Laban should be an exception]. The party will provide a nationwide organization and avenues to directly reach and benefit the poorest of the poor, the voiceless, and the defenseless of our nation that Sen. Manny Pacquiao was once a part and now a champion of,” said Ron Munsayac, the party’s national executive director.
Munsayac said the party’s focus was to help “ravished, hungry, and desperate” Filipinos deal with the coronavirus pandemic, and those affected by a recent string of natural calamities.
PDP-Laban is one of the country’s largest political parties, with five incumbent senators, 58 members of the House of Representatives, 43 governors, 22 vice governors, 257 provincial board members, 608 mayors, 541 vice mayors, 4,081 councilors and 100,000 grassroots community leaders.
Political analyst Victor Andres Manhit, founder and managing director of the political think tank Stratbase Group, said the choice of Pacquiao as PDP-Laban president must be viewed with the presence of Velasco in the equation.
“Senator Pacquiao is known to be fully supportive of the President Duterte, while Speaker Velasco is also publicly known to be close to (Davao City) Mayor Inday Sara. This new leadership is meant to set up PDP-Laban as a party that can provide backing for whoever the President chooses [to run] as his successor [in 2022],” Manhit said.
No party leaderManhit said he was surprised at the choice of Pacquiao, who is not known to have led a political party.
“He may have other strengths but running a party is different, especially that PDP-Laban has not been known as a party that is strong internally,” he said.
But taking the role of party president may also not mean Pacquiao has his eyes focused on a run for higher office in 2022, Manhit said.
“This somehow presents a dilemma for him because he is eligible for reelection, and has a high probability of winning another term in one of the 12 available slots in the Senate, rather than risk ruining his political career in a one-on-one [presidential] contest,” he said.
If it is any indication of his political plans, Pacquiao also announced the coming launch of a mobile game based on his life story, “Fighting Pride: The Manny Pacquiao Saga.”
Velasco’s appointment to one of the highest positions in PDP-Laban may also be part of attempts to lure Sara Duterte into the alliance, as she has in the past distanced herself from the political party that his father heads, Manhit said.
He agreed with observations that Pacquiao’s installation was also meant to “stop the bleeding” within the party, as it had been hit by desertions and internal squabbles in recent months, mainly the tussle for the House speakership between Velasco and Taguig Rep. Alan Peter Cayetano.
“It is not a secret that many of its members today [are] former members of other political parties. In other words, many of them [are] notable political butterflies,” he said.
‘Deep resources’Party insiders, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said Pacquiao was chosen as party president because of his “deep resources,” and had the support of President Duterte.
“It’s almost Christmastime once again, and party members would usually expect ‘gifts.’ Holding a party meeting by itself is already expensive,” a source said.
In a statement, PDP-Laban said Pacquiao was installed in what leaders called a “hybrid fellowship night” at Las Casas Filipinas de Acuzar Hotel in Bagac town in Bataan province.
In his speech, Pacquiao gave party members his “commitment [to] harness the administration party’s immense power and influence to fight corruption,” which he blamed as the “root cause of poverty in the country.”
“We are not beholden to big businesses, foreign entities, nor vested interests, but only to the Filipino people. We are here to fight for the poor, the jobless, the homeless, the voiceless and the hopeless,” he said.
Pacquiao and Velasco took their oaths before Sen. Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III, the outgoing PDP-Laban president.
Pimentel said he had passed the day-to-day running of the party on to Pacquiao, who he described as “one with new modern ideas, and one who has the time, energy, and boldness to prepare the party for the 2022 national and local elections.”
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