The tale of the tape: Pacquiao’s fight to be president
MANILA, Philippines — Boxing icon Manny Pacquiao is facing his biggest and toughest fight yet: running for president of the Philippines.
His bid to succeed President Rodrigo Duterte in Malacañang is centered on knocking out poverty and corruption. The standard-bearer of the Progressive Movement for the Devolution of Initiatives (PROMDI) offers Filipino voters his “Health of the Nation” platform which stands for Housing, Education, Aid and Agriculture, Livelihood, Transporation and Telecommunications, and Health.
But his poor attendance as a member of the House of Representatives and the Senate and unproven competence can deal a blow to his presidential campaign, analysts said.
Despite his reputation as a boxing legend and his rags-to-riches story, he tied with Manila Mayor Francisco “Isko Moreno” Domagoso at the third spot in a January survey released by Pulse Asia, with just 8% of voter support.
Here’s what you need to know about Pacquiao’s presidential bid.
Running-mate: Lito Atienza is a deputy House speaker representing Buhay party-list, a pro-life party. He served as Manila mayor for three terms and a secretary of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources during the term of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.
Pacquiao said he went for Atienza because of the veteran’s political career spanning more than 50 years. Both are religious and have tended to be conservative.
Campaign manager: Businessman Salvador “Buddy” Zamora was the chairman of Philippine Telegraph & Telephone Corp. before stepping down in September 2021. He is still a board member of the PT&T. Zamora is also one of the founders of Nickel Asia Corp.
- Lutgardo “Lutz” Barbo is a former Senate secretary and former governor of Eastern Samar. Barbo was elected vice chairman of the “original” wing of the PDP Laban chaired by Sen. Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III.
- Raffy Tulfo is a television and radio anchor known for giving people a platform to have their issues brought to the attention of government agencies. But his brand of “justice” has been criticized for violating due process. Tulfo has consistently topped senatorial surveys.
- Former Vice President Jejomar Binay is staging a political comeback after losing in the 2016 presidential race and the 2019 polls when he sought a congressional seat in Makati City. He vows to help millions who lost their jobs and small businesses that closed down due to the pandemic. Binay is also included in the slates of Vice President Leni Robredo and Sen. Panfilo Lacson.
- JV Ejercito is eyeing a Senate comeback after losing in the 2019 elections. He wants to ensure the full implementation of the Universal Health Care Act—the bill of which he sponsored—and pushes for infrastructure development. Ejercito is also endorsed by Lacson.
- Chiz Escudero, who has been serving as the governor of Sorsogon since 2019, is seeking a return to the Senate. If elected, he plans to empower and strengthen local government units. Escudero is also in the senatorial lineups of Robredo and Lacson.
- Loren Legarda, currently representing Antique at the lower chamber, is also eyeing a Senate comeback. As a three-term senator from 1998, she helped craft the Magna Carta for Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises, the Climate Change Act and the Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Act. Legarda is also featured in the lineup of presidential candidate Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr.
- Joel Villanueva, who is seeking another term at the upper house, vows to push for job creation and employment security. He was instrumental in the passage of the law establishing the Department of Migrant Workers. Villanueva is also part of the senatorial slates of Lacson and Robredo.
- Senate Majority Leader Migz Zubiri is seeking re-election. He helped pass measures such as the Bangsamoro Organic Law, Anti-Hazing Law and Renewable Energy Act. His bid is also supported by Lacson, Marcos and Robredo.
- Win Gatchalian currently chairs the Senate committees on education and energy. He authored the Mobile Number Portability Act and Murang Kuryente Act. Gatchalian’s re-election bid is also endorsed by Marcos. He was dropped from the senatorial slate of Lacson and running mate Senate President Vicente “Tito” Sotto III after he attended the Marcos proclamation rally in Bulacan in early February.
- Richard Gordon, a veteran politician and chairman of the Philippine Red Cross, is seeking another term at the upper chamber. He leads the blue ribbon committee that has been holding hearings on government contracts with embattled Pharmally Pharmaceutical Corp. Gordon is also featured in the lineups of Robredo and Lacson.
Stances and proposed platforms
For Pacquiao, the government should focus on ramping up its COVID-19 vaccination campaign to prevent further lockdowns. But he opposes restrictions on the mobility of unvaccinated individuals, noting the need to respect those who remain unvaccinated out of personal or religious belief.
Should he be elected to the highest government post, he will increase the minimum wage of health workers to at least P50,000 per month on top of other perks.
During the forum hosted by KBP in January, Pacquiao proposed to have medical facilities in each of the over 42,000 barangays in the country. He also wants to build tertiary hospitals in each city and province.
Pacquiao, once a staunch ally of President Rodrigo Duterte, promised to fight illegal drugs “the right way” if elected as president.
“When I said the right way, we will not kill them in the streets. We will allow them to defend themselves in court,” he said in a forum hosted by the Foreign Correspondents Association of the Philippines. The boxing icon previously defended the administration’s bloody war on drugs.
Pacquiao said he is open to having the Philippines rejoin the International Criminal Court and allowing its investigators into the country.
The presidential bet also said he is open to amending the controversial Anti-Terrorism Act of 2021 and even abolishing the measure if it is abused. He voted in favor of the anti-terror bill when it was being deliberated at the Senate.
A fervent evangelical Christian, Pacquiao has been criticized for his conservative stances on LGBTQ+ and abortion.
Education and youth
Pacquiao, who did not finish formal schooling due to poverty, said he will support the Alternative Learning System of the Department of Education. ALS provides opportunities for out-of-school youth and adult learners to access equivalent pathways to complete basic education. Pacquiao earned his high school diploma through ALS in 2007. He has also earned a Political Science degree from the University of Makati.
If he wins in May, Pacquiao said he will pursue a “one student, one gadget” program to address a lack exposed by distance learnign during the pandemic. Teachers will be also equipped with the gadgets they need to teach online.
“If possible, we will also look into providing free internet connectivity to marginalized communities to use for online learning,” he said in January.
In a bid “to restore the dignity” of the teaching profession, Pacquiao vowed vowed to double the salary of all public school teachers and improve the welfare of educators in private schools. He said he will ask the National Wages and Productivity Commission and the Regional Tripartite Wages and Productivity Boards to revamp the current minimum wage for teachers.
To finance the provision of gadgets and wage increase of government teachers, Pacquiao said his administration will get funds “from various sources including savings from corruption,” which he estimated at 700 billion to P1 trillion a year.
Land reform and land use
The billionaire senator said he is not against land reclamation, but he cited the need for assessment of a project and consultation with affected communities.
Jobs creation and retention
The presidential aspirant has repeatedly said he will ensure that every Filipino will have a job and that jobs will look for them.
He promised to impose a “Filipino first” policy when generating and securing jobs.
Pacquiao plans to tap “businessmen friends”, including Chinese billionaire Jack Ma, to invest in the Philippines and generate jobs.
Public services and social safety nets
Believing that having decent shelter will give Filipinos motivation to improve their way of life, Pacquiao makes housing one of his priority programs. He plans to build at least 10 million houses that will be distributed for free to 1.6 million informal settlers and nine million families renting apartment or are sharing living spaces with their extended families.
He also eyes to provide interest-free loans to small and medium enterprises.