Manny Pacquiao is treating the coming presidential election like a boxing match. We usually compare it to a race but in the initial stage of positioning, it has looked like a verbal match. Pacquiao threw the first jab and President Rodrigo Duterte came up with a right straight. Pacquiao, with his advisers, responded with an uppercut.
The issue that Pacquiao first threw was about the West Philippine Sea or WPS. He criticized the Duterte administration’s stand on the territorial dispute. “Medyo nakukulangan ako,” he said. Pacquiao obviously favors a firmer stand on the dispute, noting that the President promised to be such during the campaign. He promised to ride a jetski and plant the Philippine flag on a disputed island, which is a metaphor for his willingness to fight for our claim.
The President responded with a mild insult, telling Pacquiao to study the issue before speaking his mind out. Pacquiao, after all, chose boxing before education when he was younger just to be able to help feed his mother and siblings. His father had another family then. Pacquiao is now a millionaire and is being surrounded by the well educated, like lawyers. He also managed to educate himself while building his legacy and wealth in world boxing.
Pacquiao’s counter was a strong punch. He noted that he was merely expressing the sentiment of the majority of Filipinos, which is true. Doing that does not need an exceedingly high educational attainment, but only needs mere common sense and love of country. But I agree that in all the other issues Pacquiao must, like what he usually does in boxing, come into the campaign well prepared.
The other thing that Pacquiao is preparing for is money, lots of it. That is why he is fighting again soon, but unlike his rival Floyd Mayweather who is into exhibition matches, Pacquiao is fighting a young champion in Errol Spence. This is a dangerous fight, but Pacquiao did not become a boxing legend choosing easy fights.
What makes the verbal exchange interesting is not its content but the message being sent. The President is the top gun of Pacquiao’s party, the Partido Demokratiko Pilipino or PDP. The maneuvering we are seeing in the party is a result of split loyalty. It is a conflict between the old and the new, the President representing the waning power and Pacquiao representing the nascent one. I mean, Paquiao is among the nascent ones, new leaders who may yet become the country’s next President.
Pacquiao actually rates high in surveys, like Manila City Mayor Isko Moreno Domagoso and presidential daughter and Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte. There are other wannabes, some of them highly intellectual but, as we often say, the presidency is a destiny. The candidate can only prepare for it, but the winning is up to the people. Some people consider the winning to be of God, thus manifest destiny. But I say it is the result of many factors, the most important of which is the people’s level of consciousness.