World champion boxer and Philippines senator Manny Pacquiao has been elected president of the ruling PDP-Lanban party, that of President Rodrigo Duterte and winner of the legislative and municipal elections in 2019.
“Fair but firm – this is the kind of leadership that you can expect from Manny Pacquiao, PDP-Laban Party president,” said Pacquiao in Manila after taking office on Wednesday night.
It positions Pacquiao as a possible candidate for the Philippine presidency in 2022, something which has been speculated on for months.
“To be given this rare opportunity to lead the PDP-Laban is an immense honour and responsibility. By God’s grace, I will not waste this platform that you have entrusted me [with],” said the current welterweight world champion, who is idolised in the Philippines.
Speculation about Pacquiao’s intention to run for president gained momentum in June when his former promoter, Bob Arum, announced in an interview that the 41-year-old boxer had told him that he would be a candidate in 2022.
Neither Pacquiao nor anyone close to him confirmed or denied that information and the boxer also refrained from commenting on it on Wednesday night.
The boxer also refused to comment on a possible Duterte-Duterte tandem run in the next elections, with Sara Duterte, mayor of Davao and daughter of the president, as the presidential candidate and her father as her running mate since he can only serve a single six-year term and is ineligible for re-election.
“Let’s not talk politics. We should focus on helping our hungry countrymen, the poor and [those who] have no shelter. The elections are still far away, let’s not talk about it,” said Pacquiao, who is a close friend of Duterte and his family.
Pacquiao, a senator since 2016, replaces Senator Koko Pimentel, another close ally of Duterte who highlighted the boxer’s ability to bring new and modern ideas into the party before the 2022 elections.
Lord Allan Velasco, current speaker of the Philippines house of representatives and also part of Duterte’s close circle in the legislative assembly, was elected as vice-president of PDP-Lanban.