Boxing star Manny Pacquiao says he will run for president of the Philippines next year, after railing against corruption in government and what he calls President Rodrigo Duterte’s cosy relationship with China.
Mr Pacquiao accepted the nomination of his political allies during the national assembly of the faction he leads in the ruling PDP-Laban Party, days after a rival faction nominated Mr Duterte’s long-time aide, Senator Christopher “Bong” Go, as its presidential candidate.
That faction nominated Mr Duterte for vice president, a move that critics called a cynical ploy by Mr Duterte to retain power.
Mr Go declined the nomination, but the rift between the Pacquiao and Duterte factions has escalated.
“I am a fighter, and I will always be a fighter inside and outside the ring,” Mr Pacquiao, 42, a senator, said in a live-streamed speech during the assembly on Sunday.
“I am accepting your nomination as candidate for president of the Republic of the Philippines.”
JUST IN: Sen. Manny Pacquiao accepts nomination to be PDP-Laban's presidential candidate in the 2022 elections.
"I am a fighter. I'm always a fighter inside and outside the ring," he said. | @PaoloSRomero
— The Philippine Star (@PhilippineStar) September 19, 2021
Mr Pacquiao’s faction has not expressed support for Mr Duterte’s vice-presidential bid.
Mr Duterte is prohibited by the constitution from running for a second six-year term as president.
One of the greatest boxers of all time and the only man to hold world titles in eight different divisions, Mr Pacquiao was mum about his 26-year professional career.
Despite his popularity, Mr Pacquiao trails the frontrunners in opinion polls that have been topped consistently by Mr Duterte’s daughter, Sara Duterte-Carpio.
In July, Mr Pacquiao was voted out as PDP-Laban leader, weeks after challenging Mr Duterte over his position on China and record on fighting corruption, but his ouster was rejected by his faction.
Mr Pacquiao, once a close ally of Mr Duterte, had said more than 10 billion pesos ($275 million) in pandemic aid intended for poor families was unaccounted for, adding this was just one discovery in his planned corruption investigation.
His anti-corruption crusade comes as the Senate has opened an investigation into alleged overpricing of medical supplies and equipment purchased under the government’s pandemic response program.
Mr Duterte challenged Mr Pacquiao to name corrupt government offices to prove that the boxer was not just politicking ahead of the election.
Mr Pacquiao countered by warning of jail for corrupt government officials: “Your time is up!”