Pacquiao for Prez? It’s possible.
After his speech at the University of Oxford on Monday, boxer and Philippine Senator Manny Pacquiao said in an open forum that running for president is not off the table.
However, he also said that he will never feel comfortable in the world of politics, ABS-CBN News reported.
“Politics will never be my comfort zone. But public service is my clarion call. My compassion for the plight of my people is what motivated me to enter the world of public service in 2010,” he said.
Comfortable or not, the boxer has certainly been trying to get into politics for years. He first vied to be the representative for the 1st District of South Cotabato in 2007 but lost to the incumbent Congressperson Darlene Antonino-Custodio.
He once again ran for Congress in 2010, that time as a representative for Sarangani Province, and won in a landslide victory. He held this position until he became a Philippine senator in 2016.
And his presidential aspirations aren’t totally random either. None other than President Rodrigo Duterte has endorsed him. During Pacquiao’s birthday party in December last year, Duterte said: “Once, when we were talking privately, I told him ‘I want to make you president.’ I know he can do it.”
Of course, many are opposed to this idea.
Apart from Pacquiao’s controversial conservative views, many have also criticized him for his inexperience and less than stellar educational background. He dropped out of school when he was younger and only earned his high school diploma in 2007 after taking an equivalency exam.
While celebrities running for public office is somewhat new — and still weird — in many parts of the world, it’s the norm in the Philippines. Every elections season, ballots are filled with actors, singers, and athletes.
Pacquiao, a national icon, checks off all those boxes, having released several albums and even appearing on TV and film.
Seemingly self-aware, he talked about his educational background in his speech addressed to the Oxford Union speaker and debate society on Monday, The Philippine Star reported.
“And here am I, Emmanuel Dapidran Pacquiao, standing before you armed with just the equivalent of a sixth form education, an undisguised respect for what your group and your university represent,” he said.
Pacquaio also called himself an underdog and said he felt intimidated by the event in the prestigious university.
“I have fought some of the best fighters in history. And yet I have to admit, as I stand before you, I am intimidated when I think of the kind of main event headliners who faced you over the years,” he said, not missing the chance to make a boxing reference.
However, he said he continues to learn from the “university called life.”
“I have not experienced how it is to pursue a degree like a regular university student. My circumstances were very different from yours,” Pacquiao said. “But I did not allow these circumstances to limit me. I worked on and finally received my degree through the Alternative Learning System.
As inspiring as he tried to be, Pacquiao couldn’t stay completely away from the Philippines’ controversies. During the open forum, he defended Duterte’s drug war and said that many suspects are killed only because they resist arrest.
Pacquiao, a staunch Duterte supporter, was echoing the administration’s claim that the thousands of drug war deaths happened because suspects fought back. The police have stuck to this narrative even after several instances show that this is not always true.
Apart from Oxford, Pacquiao also visited the University of Cambridge yesterday.