MANILA - New World Boxing Organization (WBO) welterweight champion Manny Pacquiao will back the same presidential candidate as Department of Environment and Natural Resources Secretary Jose 'Lito' Atienza.
This is according to Atienza, Pacquiao's long-time political ally and adviser.
Nacionalista Party (NP) standard-bearer Manny Villar said over the weekend that Pacquiao will be the NP bet in Sarangani, implying that he has gotten the support of the country's most popular athlete for the presidential polls in May 2010.
"Palagay ko tatakbo siya [Pacquiao] sa Sarangani, at pagbibigyan naman siya ng mga taga-Sarangani," Atienza said on Monday. "Napag-usapan namin, kami magkasama."
However, Atienza declined to say who he will support for president. He also refused to confirm whether he will run for his old elective post as mayor of the city of Manila.
Atienza served for three terms or 9 years as mayor of the Manila.
At the opening of the 3rd East Asian Seas Congress in Pasay City, former President Fidel V. Ramos referred to the DENR secretary as "mayor."
Atienza said he would like to still focus on his job as secretary of the DENR until the last day of the filing of certificate of candidacy on December 1.
"Alam niyo, pagnanais na paglilingkod, lalo na sa pamamagitan ng halalan, ay bahagi na ng aking pagkatao. Pero yung trabaho ko sa DENR, ako ay nanghihinayang. Maraming direksiyon na ang nagbubunga unti-unti. Kaya pinag-iingatan ko na ang pagtatrabaho," he said.
"Ayoko na sana hanggat maari. Till the last day working day, I'd like to continue working at the DENR and do a lot more to help. Meron pa naman sa December 1 to decide," Atienza said.
Pacquiao not qualified for party-list?
Atienza also added that Pacquiao is not qualified from seeking a seat in Congress through the party-list elections since he previously ran and lost in the district elections in South Cotabato in 2007.
"Hindi pala siya pwede tumakbo na party -list. May nagsabi na pag tumakbo na nuon, hindi na pwede tumakbo ulit. That disqualifies Manny from the party-list category," he said.
Party-list group Pwersa ng Bayaning Atleta (PBA) earlier said it wants Pacquiao to be one of its nominees to win seats in Congress.
PBA executive director Joey Zarate said during a party the group organized for Pacquiao and Filipino athletes last Friday that the Filipino champ is very much welcome in their party-list group.
“PBA party-list is a group for and by the athletes. We want to take care of the welfare of Filipino athletes, who are sometimes hampered by lack of finances, especially when preparing for international competitions,” said Zarate.
The group made a similar offer in 2007 when Pacquiao signified his intention to run for a congressional seat in the first district of South Cotabato. -- report from RG Cruz, ABS-CBN News