2022 Philippine Elections

Pacquiao’s uphill climb to presidency starts in GenSan

Aika Rey

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Pacquiao’s uphill climb to presidency starts in GenSan

HOUSING CHAMPION. Aspiring president Senator Manny Pacquiao at the groundbreaking ceremony in Cebu, where he was named as the 'Ambassador for the Homeless and Vulnerable.'

Office of Senator Pacquiao.

Senator Manny Pacquiao is set to launch his presidential campaign at the General Santos City Oval Plaza

GENERAL SANTOS, Philippines – From early boxing days to securing the presidency, Senator Manny Pacquiao wants to start it all from home – in General Santos City.

Pacquiao remembers poverty all too well. He was, after all, once a probinsyano who went to Manila in search of a better life. 

Before he reached the pinnacle of boxing success, Pacquiao was a construction worker. When he was off work, he tried selling off anything he could in Quiapo just to earn extra money. There were days when he was forced to sleep on the streets while his family had to live in makeshift homes.

Fast forward to 2022, Pacquiao has already won 13 major boxing titles in eight weight divisions. He has become a billionaire and now owns several properties inside and outside General Santos City.

“GenSan,” as locals fondly call it, is the “home of the champions.” Over the years, Pacquiao has left a mark in the city and in the heart of the locals who knew him due to his generosity and money, aside from fame.

On Tuesday, February 8, Pacquiao is set to launch his presidential campaign at the General Santos City Oval Plaza. He will be joined by his running mate, veteran politician Deputy Speaker Lito Atienza, running under Cebu-based party PROMDI. Some senatorial candidates who are part of their slate are also expected to be in GenSan on Tuesday.

“Sa Gensan kasi dito nagsimula ang aking mga pangarap na maiahon ko ang aking pamilya sa kahirapan… Kaya dito magsisimula ang aking pangarap na magkaroon nang maayos at maunlad na bansa at malinis na pag-gobyerno,” said Pacquiao in an earlier interview.

(I am holding the proclamation rally in GenSan because I started the dream of bringing my family out of poverty here. That’s why I will also start here my dream of having an efficient and developed country and clean government.)

Pacquiao is running under PROMDI with a goal of consolidating the Visayas and Mindanao vote. GenSan, however, is far from being vote-rich. The southernmost Philippine city has only around 350,000 registered voters.

War on corruption

The boxing icon-turned-politician is running on an anti-corruption platform as he believes corruption is the reason why Filipinos are still poor and why the country’s economic growth remains stunted.

If elected president, Pacquiao said Filipinos will receive a lot of freebies from the government – free housing, free gadgets for students and teachers, free education, among others.

Pacquiao also said he is ready to go to war with China if needed and has since tempered his stance against the death penalty. He wants a space rocket launcher in Mindanao and dreams of better infrastructure and utilities nationwide.

But other issues still hound him – his competency to lead and his controversial stance on LGBTQ+ and abortion.

This fight is not far from easy. Determination alone will not be enough.

The youngest presidential bet but the most ambitious of all, Pacquiao is facing an uphill climb to the presidency with the odds stacked against him once again.

If elections were held in December, Pacquiao would not have won according to a Pulse Asia survey. The latest poll showed that Pacquiao’s numbers was far off the winning range at only 8% and dictator’s son Ferdinand Marcos Jr is the person to beat at 53%.

The future boxing hall of famer has 3 months to reach the top. – Rappler.com

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Aika Rey

Aika Rey is a business reporter for Rappler. She covered the Senate of the Philippines before fully diving into numbers and companies. Got tips? Find her on Twitter at @reyaika or shoot her an email at aika.rey@rappler.com.