Boxing champion Manny Pacquiao said on Sunday that he will run for president of the Philippines next year, after raging about government corruption and President Rodrigo Duterte’s intimate connection with China.
Pacquiao accepted his political colleagues’ nomination during the national assembly of the party he represents in the ruling PDP-Laban Party, just days after another faction selected Duterte’s long-time assistant, Senator Christopher “Bong” Go, as its presidential candidate.
That faction proposed Duterte for vice president, which critics saw as a cynical attempt by Duterte to maintain power.
Go refused the nomination, but the schism between Pacquiao and Duterte has widened.
“I am a fighter, and I will always be a fighter, inside and outside the ring,” Pacquiao, 42, said during a live-streamed statement during the gathering. “I accept your nomination as presidential candidate for the Republic of the Philippines.”
Pacquiao’s camp has not endorsed Duterte’s vice-presidential bid. The constitution forbids Duterte from seeking for a second six-year term as president.
Pacquiao, one of the best boxers of all time and the only man to hold world titles in eight different weight classes, remained silent about his 26-year professional career.
Despite his popularity, Pacquiao behind the front-runners in opinion polls, which Duterte’s daughter, Sara Duterte-Carpio, has repeatedly led.
Pacquiao was voted out as PDP-Laban leader in July, only weeks after questioning Duterte on his stance on China and track record on battling corruption, but his camp disputed his expulsion.
Pacquiao, a former Duterte ally, previously stated that more than 10 billion pesos ($200 million) in pandemic relief intended for poor families had gone missing, adding that this was just one discovery in his planned corruption inquiry.
His anti-corruption crusade coincides with the Senate’s opening of an investigation into alleged overpricing of medical supplies and equipment obtained through the government’s pandemic response program.
Duterte challenged Pacquiao to name corrupt government officials in order to demonstrate that the boxer was not simply campaigning before of the election.
Pacquiao responded by threatening corrupt government officials with prison: “Your time is up!”