MANILA, Philippines (UPDATE) - The Philippines' boxing icon Manny Pacquiao endorsed Senator Manuel Villar for the elections on May 10, 2010 after he formalized his party's alliance with the tycoon's Nacionalista Party (NP) on Friday.
All members of Pacquiao's local political party, People's Champ Movement, were present when the new World Boxing Organization (WBO) welterweight champion signed an oath of affiliation in the presence of Villar at around 1 a.m.
The alliance was formally sealed after Pacquiao's 31st birthday celebration at the KCC Convention Center in General Santos City.
"Siya ang karapat-dapat dahil alam niya ang nararamdaman ng isang mahirap. Alam niya ang tunay na kalagayan ng mga mahihirap," Pacquiao said.
Pacquiao's alliance with Villar's political party ends speculations on who he will support for president in 2010.
Pacquiao was courted by the Lakas-Kampi-CMD, which is backing former Defense Secretary Gilberto Teodoro. His hands have also been raised by former President Joseph Estrada, presidential candidate of the Puwersa ng Masang Pilipino.
"Iginagalang ko naman ang Lakas. May pambato silang iba. Ako naman, dapat may national na kaalyado rin," said Pacquiao
Commenting on the endorsement, House Speaker Prospero Nograles, a leader of the Lakas-Kampi-CMD, said: "[It's] definitely an added advertisement value for them considering that this election is gearing towards the Stars."
Malacañang said it respects Pacquiao’s decision to join forces with Villar.
"I will not be surprised if he would have preferred to be with the administration party. But it's his decision to make," said presidential spokesman for economic affairs Gary Olivar.
Lakas officer and Presidential Adviser on Political Affairs Prospero Pichay, meanwhile, said that Pacquiao’s agreement with NP came in too late.
He said Pacquiao, who earned the distinction of being the first boxer to win 7 world titles, will remain in the Lakas-Kampi stable because he failed to beat the deadline imposed by the Commission on Elections for those who want to switch parties.
“Nananatiling Lakas-Kampi and partido ni Pacman sa candidacy na finile niya sa COMELEC... December 15 ang last day ng substitution,” he said.
Value of Pacquiao's endorsement
But how important is Pacquiao's endorsement?
In the October 22-30 survey of polling firm, Pulse Asia, 1,800 respondents were asked: "Kung sakali na ang isang kandidato sa pagka Presidente ay suportahan ni Pacquiao, siguradong iboboto ninyo, malamang na iboboto ninyo, malamang na hindi iboboto, siguradong hindi ninyo iboboto ang kandidatong inindorso ni Pacquiao?"
"In case Pacquiao supports a presidential candidate, will you surely vote, probably vote, probably not vote, surely not vote for his endorsed candidate?"
The survey found that 2% of respondents said they would "surely vote" for a presidential candidate endorsed by Pacquiao, while 19% said they would "probably" vote for Pacquiao's bet.
On the other hand, 35% of respondents said they would "probably not vote for" Pacquiao's presidential bet, while 36% said they would "surely not vote for" his candidate.
A total of 3% said Pacquiao's endorsement would not have any effect, while 3% refused to answer.
The survey has a margin of error of plus/minus 2%.
Villar can cut Nonoy's big lead
With a 21% value (2% surely vote/19% probably vote), Pacquiao's endorsement may allow Villar to cut Senator Benigno 'Noynoy' Aquino III's big lead over him.
According to the latest, Social Weather Stations (SWS) presidential survey conducted November 4-8, Aquino had a big 27% lead over Villar.
Aquino got a 47% presidential preference rating while Villar was second with 20%.
The survey has a margin of error of plus/minus 3%.
Pacquiao is seeking the lone congressional district seat of the province of Sarangani.
This is Pacquiao's 2nd congressional bid. He lost to South Cotabato 1st District Rep. Darlene Antonino-Custodio in 2007.
Villar, meanwhile, said more 2010 candidates are forging an alliance with the NP. He said all NP alliances will be formalized before the start of campaign period in February next year.
The property tycoon is running with vice-presidential candidate, Senator Loren Legarda of the Nationalist People's Coalition. -- Report from Chat Ansagay, ABS-CBN General Santos City