Pacquiao faces tough fight vs Chiongbians

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Mar 16 2010 01:35 PM | Updated as of Mar 17 2010 09:48 PM

Remulla: It won't be a stroll in the park

MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) -- World Boxing Organization (WBO) welterweight champion Manny Pacquiao will have a tough political battle when he faces the well-entrenched political clan of the Chiongbians for the lone congressional seat in Sarangani province.

In an interview on ANC's Rundown Monday night, Edwin Espejo, 50, a veteran journalist from General Santos (GenSan) City, said Pacquiao's battle against the Chiongbians may be similar to his lost battle against the Antonino clan in South Cotabato in 2007.

"Unfortunately for Manny, the same situation confronts him now. The Chiongbians have been in local politics even longer than the Antoninos. It was the Chiongbians who authored the bill that created GenSan and also authored the bill that created Sarangani," Espejo said.

In 2007, he noted that Pacquiao was up against Rep. Darlene Antonino-Custodio and the "big political machinery of the Antoninos" who have been a "regular fixture in GenSan politics."

Asked about Pacquiao's chances  in winning the lone congressional seat of Sarangani, Espejo said this will depend on whether Pacquiao will be able to make up for lost ground, considering that he has not been in the province since he started training in the US for his March 13 boxing match against Ghana's Joshua Clottey.

"He has only 45 days to reach out to 140 barangays and to 277,000 registered voters of Sarangani. That will be a statistical nightmare for him," Espejo said.

The official campaign period for the local elections starts on March 26.

Not only Chiongbians

Espejo said Pacquiao's adviser, former Ilocos Sur Gov. Luis 'Chavit' Singson, whose family has been in power in Ilocos Sur for a long time,  had urged Pacquiao not to run one-on-one against an established political clan.

"In fairness to Chavit Singson, he has always advised Manny not to run in a one-on-one election. He has always advised Manny to run for party-list for athletes (instead)," Espejo said. "This might be one of the odds that Manny will not be able to overcome."

Aside from having to face the Chiongbians, Espejo said Pacquiao is also up against the "popular" incumbent Sarangani Gov. Miguel Dominguez, who is also current national president of the ruling Lakas-KAMPI-CMD party.

He said Pacquiao's People's Champ Party (PCP) put up a full slate against Dominguez's Sarangani Reconciliation and Reformation Organization (SARRO), which has a tie-up with Lakas-KAMPI-CMD.

"He’s [Dominguez] also young like Manny, 33 years old. So Manny is not only against Chiongbian. He’s also virtually running against Dominguez," Espejo said.  

"The mere fact that Manny put up a full slate means he’s also going up against Dominguez."

Asked whether voters might go for newer faces in the local polls in the province, Espejo said many of the politicians in Pacquiao's political party are "rehashed politicians." He said the SARRO ticket has even newer faces than the People's Champ Party slate.

NP to help People's Champ Party

Interviewed on the same ANC program, Nacionalista Party (NP) spokesman Gilbert Remulla said it is Roy, a younger brother of incumbent Sarangani Gov. Erwin Chiongbian, who is running against Pacquiao.

"Erwin Chiongbian has reached his 9-year limit," he said. "So it is not the old politician but a new one coming in fresh. So I think in this regard, we are weighing it and studying it together with Manny Pacquiao."

Remulla also said Pacquiao has been preparing for his second try at politics, noting that the boxer even set up the People's Champ Party (PCP) for the May 2010 polls.

He also said the NP and the PCP are looking at other ways of cooperating in the May 10 polls.

"Definitely, Manny Pacquiao will not have a stroll in the park as many people might think. The Chiongbians are a very formidable opponent in Sarangani and we expect to help Manny as much as we can," Remulla said. 

Remulla also said Pacquiao will be joining the NP sorties, including its main rallies. There will also be "a lot of media exposure" with Pacquiao and NP presidential bet Sen. Manny Villar.

"I think it’s going to be beneficial not only for Sen. Villar but for the rest of the ticket considering the popularity of Manny Pacquiao at this point," he said.  

Pacquiao is expected to return to the Philippines next week. He beat Clottey in a unanimous decision last Saturday (Sunday in Manila).