Manny’s money moves many

PDP-Laban parries impressions that Sen. Manny Pacquiao’s assumption of the ruling party’s presidency is an indication of his presidential bid in the 2022 elections. It’s too early to talk about it, according to the party’s executive director Ron Munsayac. However, the senator sounded much like a candidate already when he spoke of his new advocacy of going against corruption and taking up the cudgels for the poor.

Throughout his political career in the last 10 years, Pacquiao has hardly made a name as an anti-corruption advocate. Can you remember an instance when he spoke strongly against a specific person accused of involvement in corrupt activities, or pushing a legislation that would sharpen the legal tools against corruption?

Aside from his boxing bouts and absenteeism in the legislature, the things I hear and read about Pacquiao involve humorous encounters with him by friends and his funny spiels during legislative inquiries and public hearings. I’ve also seen videos and photos of him distributing crisp P1, 000 bills to a long line of people on occasions like Christmas and New Year, and to security guards.

Pacquiao did not seek the leadership of the Partido Demokratiko Pilipino – Lakas ng Bayan (PDP-Laban). The party offered the position to him. He took his oath for his new role in the party on Dec. 2 during a fellowship night.

Let’s not be too naïve to think that it’s not Pacquiao’s money earned from his boxing bouts that qualified him for his new role in PDP-Laban. Well, his popularity down to the grassroots counts, too. But political leadership? That’s for Sen. Koko Pimentel, who gave up the party presidency for Pacquiao and moved up to become executive vice chairman, and House Speaker Lord Allan Velasco as executive vice president to maneuver.

Having Pacquiao at the party’s help was a tactical move to make sure that PDP-Laban would continue to be the dominant party even after 2022.

For sure, Pacquiao is a winnable candidate, given the preference of many Filipino voters for popularity over competence and performance. He will be 43 years old in the 2022 elections and has the other qualifications to seek the presidency.

Pacquiao has all the trimmings of a presidential candidate that most poor Filipinos could identify with. Raised by poor parents, the boxing legend was a school dropout who happened to meet the education secretary who, in turn, designated him as an “ambassador” to popularize the department’s Alternative Learning System (ALS) in exchange for a high school diploma after passing an equivalency exam in 2007.

After losing in his first try in politics for the congressional seat of General Santos City, Pacquiao enrolled in a certificate course in development, legislation and government at the Development Academy of the Philippines – Graduate School of Public and Development Management. He won in his second try, that time in the district of Sarangani.

Twelve years later in December 2019, Pacquiao obtained a bachelor’s degree in political science, major in local government administration from the University of Makati through the Expanded Tertiary Education Equivalency and Accreditation Program (ETEEAP), which allows qualified Filipinos to complete a collegiate-level education via informal education system.

Unlike the usual candidates who boast of their diplomas from prestigious educational institutions here and abroad, Pacquiao managed to get his educational credentials through the informal system. He won’t run out of rags-to-riches kind of stories that could win votes. In the 2016 senatorial election, he got 16 million votes, landing 7th among at least 50 candidates despite a tax evasion case filed against him, and beating veteran politicians with established political names like former senators Serge Osmena and Teofisto Guingona Jr.

However, Pacquiao has yet to work harder to be considered a promising politician with an outstanding performance record backed by skills, experiences, intelligence, and integrity. So far, what he carries with him are mere promises of solving the unending problem with corruption and making life less difficult. But in this country, political promises are often broken or forgotten after elections.

It’s not too long ago when President Rodrigo Duterte vowed to rid the government of corruption and illegal drugs within the first three to six months of his presidency. He has been in power for more than four years and, by his own admission, the problems have remained and even worsened.

With his wealth (which Forbes magazine estimated at roughly P1.3 billion), Pacquiao may be in a position to accomplish PDP-Laban’s goal of expanding its membership and conducting more grassroots activities. All these are obvious preparations for the 2022 elections, and PDP-Laban would be an ingrate if it chooses another candidate for president other than Pacquiao.

Remember that Duterte, the party chairman, has, on some occasions, already pitched for Pacquiao as the country’s next president.

Of course, PDP-Laban would say it’s too early to talk about the 2022 presidential elections. Otherwise, they would be occupied warding off related questions and accusations of early campaigning in everything they would do.

Part of Pacquiao’s speech on the night he was sworn in went this way: “We are not beholden to big businesses, foreign entities, nor vested interests, but only to the Filipino people. We are here to fight for the poor, the jobless, the homeless, the voiceless and the hopeless. This is what the PDP-Laban under Manny Pacquiao will stand for.”

Those words were spoken like how traditional politicians would in campaign sorties, don’t they?

It seems that PDP-Laban is beginning to package Manny Pacquiao as a serious political leader for the 2022 presidential derby.

For now, I just can’t imagine how Jinkee Pacquiao would be as the country’s first lady.

The views in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of VERA Files.