Seven relatives and close associates of Senator Manny Pacquiao are joining the race for different positions in government in the 2022 elections.
The list of those who will be running in 2022 includes Pacquiao’s brothers Rogelio and Roberto, cousin Zyrex, sister-in-law Lorelie, close friend Restituto “Buboy” Fernandez, newcomer and brother-in-law Russel Jamora, and Pacquiao’s trusted lawyer Franklin Gacal.
Jamora, the brother of Senator Pacquiao’s wife Jinkee, is seeking a seat in Sarangani’s provincial board. Jamora filed his COC on Friday, October 1, under the People’s Champ Movement (PCM).
The Filipino boxing icon turned presidential candidate’s brother Rogelio, a congressman, is running for Sarangani governor. He filed his certificate of candidacy on Friday, October 1, the same day that Senator Pacquiao filed his.
Another Pacquiao sibling, Roberto, is the representative of the party-list group OFW and would likely retain the post if the group wins a fresh mandate in the 2022 elections.
Roberto’s wife, Lorelei, sits in General Santos’ city council as the president of the city’s Liga ng mga Barangay. She is a mayoral hopeful.
General Santos Councilor Franklin Gacal, would be Lorelei Pacquiao’s running mate.
In 2019, the Pacquiao brothers’ cousin Zyrex was elected mayor of Maasim, Sarangani, where he started as a councilor. He is also seeking reelection in 2022.
Senator Pacquiao’s childhood friend and assistant boxing trainer Restituto “Buboy” Fernandez is the vice mayor of Polangui town, Albay, and is said to be eyeing reelection.
Identifying himself as “pag-asa ng masa” (hope of the masses), Pacquiao launched his bid for the highest position of the country after announcing his retirement from boxing a day before he filed his COC on Friday, the first to do so among presidential aspirants.
Now a deputy speaker, younger brother Rogelio submitted his COC on the first day set by the Comelec office in Alabel town, Sarangani.
A member of the local ticket of the PCM ticket founded by his senator-brother, the congressman is serving his second term as a Sarangani representative. The position was held by his brother Manny before his election to the Senate in 2016.
Gacal said Lorelei Pacquiao, also Labangal barangay chairperson, is expected to file her COC for General Santos mayor on Wednesday, October 6.
This is over two years after she sought the vice mayoral post. The senator’s sister-in-law ran for vice mayor in 2019 and lost to lawyer Loreto Acharon of the Antonino-led Achievement with Integrity Movement.
During the 2019 campaign, Lorelei was known to have avoided public debates with other politicians organized by media groups and some organizations.
Jinkee herself became a Sarangani vice governor in 2013 but did not seek reelection after a three-year office term that was marred by absences and unfamiliarity with basic parliamentary procedures. She explained that she decided not to seek reelection because she was “choosing family over politics.”
Will the “Pacquiao magic” still be there in 2022?
Edmundo Cejar, a businessman from Sarangani, blamed the political dynasty on “civic illiteracy, vote-trading, patronage, and hero worship for his boxing exploits.”
Cejar said President Rodrigo Duterte’s endorsements of Pacquiao earlier in his administration complemented and encouraged the “hero worship” of the boxing icon, and people close to the senator took all that to their advantage.
He said it remains to be seen if the so-called “Pacquiao magic” would still work in 2022, given his falling out with Duterte.
“While his sheen and pocket have diminished, the loyalty of his cohorts and money from other sources will likely keep his tin dynasty in place in the province, maybe for the last time,” Cejar added. “Presidency? Biting the political hands that fed him and early display of mental vacuity doomed Pacman’s presidential ambition from the start.”
He noted that Pacquiao’s group was being challenged in Sarangani and General Santos by politicians who can match it toe to toe.
“Pacquiao is pushing his luck too far. Suntok sa buwan ang gagawin niya,” said General Santos businessman Rafael Gaña Jr. (What he’s aiming for is almost impossible.) – Rappler.com
Rommel Rebollido is a Mindanao-based journalist and an awardee of the Aries Rufo Journalism Fellowship