Boxing icon Manny Pacquiao of the Philippines will be running for president in next year’s elections. Pacquiao, who is now a senator, accepted the nomination of a faction he leads of the ruling PDFP-Laban party at the national convention on Sunday. The move immediately turned him into a strong contender against President Rodrigo Duterte’s candidate. Pacquiao, considered one of the greatest boxers of all time and the only one to hold world titles in eight divisions, has been highly critical of Duterte in recent months. “I am a fighter, and I will always be a fighter inside and outside the ring,” the 42-year-old Pacquiao said as he accepted the nomination.
Until earlier this year, Pacquiao was supportive of Duterte, the populist president who became infamous around the world for his bloody war on drugs that has killed thousands. But in July Pacquiao was ousted as the leader of the PDFP-Laban party after he challenged Duterte, claiming his government is plagued by corruption and has too cozy of a relationship with China. The International Criminal Court has said it will launch an investigation into killings under Duterte’s administration.
Duterte is forbidden by the constitution to seek a second six-year term but has accepted the nomination to be the vice presidential candidate of another faction of the PDFP-Laban party. Critics have called the move a ploy for Duterte to hold on to power. That faction nominated Duterte’s close ally Christopher “Bong” Go to be the presidential candidate. Go has said he doesn’t want to run for president. And while the party says it wants him to reconsider, some are suggesting Duterte’s Daughter, Sara Duterte-Carpio, could lead the ticket.
Despite his strong name recognition and popularity, polls show Pacquiao trailing Duterte’s daughter.