Joining Pacquiao as running mate a last minute decision, says Atienza

Dennis Gasgonia, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Oct 01 2021 04:30 PM

Senator Manny Pacquiao (right) and runningmate Lito Atieza show their certificate of candidacies after filing at the Sofitel tent on October 1, 2021. Val Cuenca, ABS-CBN News
Senator Manny Pacquiao (right) and runningmate Lito Atieza show their certificate of candidacies after filing at the Sofitel tent on October 1, 2021. Val Cuenca, ABS-CBN News


MANILA - Deputy Speaker and Buhay party-list Rep. Lito Atienza surprised many when he filed on Friday his Certificate of Candidacy for Vice President, as Manny Pacquiao's running mate. 

Atienza said his move to join Pacquiao as a running mate was a last minute decision, although he had been repeatedly persuaded by the boxing champ.

“It was quite a big surprise because I’ve been recommending a lot of people to Manny,” said Atienza, who has long been an adviser of Pacquiao.

“I told him, ‘I’ve never considered running with you. I can help you win.’”

Atienza said it took him a long while contemplating if he should run alongside Pacquiao.

He even referred at least five other suitable political partners to the boxer-senator.

“Pero this morning I tried persuading him why don’t we talk to this guy and this guy? Sabi niya: ‘Takot sila. Ikaw pareho tayo ng paniniwala, ang Diyos ang bahala.’ I couldn’t refuse anymore,” he said.

When asked to explain his choice, Pacquiao said it was Atienza who first suggested he should run as president.

“From way way back, ‘di pa ko politiko sinabi niya ‘Pagbutihan mo baka maging presidente ka ng Pilipinas.’ That was 17 years ago,” he said.

“It’s a conviction from my heart and the Lord na siya ang kunin ko. Itong nangyayari sa amin kagustuhan ng panginoon. Lahat ay masaya at agree silang lahat.”

Atienza has had a close relationship with Pacquiao since he was Manila mayor.

L&M Gym, where Pacquiao used to train as a fledgling fighter, is in Sampaloc district in Manila beside University of Santo Tomas.

Atienza, who considered Pacquiao "an adopted son of Manila," would put together a motorcade every time Pacquiao returned from a fight in the United States.

When Pacquiao started dabbling in public service, Atienza became his political adviser.

Pacquiao also did have qualms about the differences in their beliefs: He backed death penalty while Atienza opposed it.

“Pagdating sa death penalty OK ako doon pero hindi pa sa ngayon,” explained Pacquiao.

“Kasi ang judicial system natin hindi pa maayos. ‘Pag ngayon inimplement ‘yan maraming masentensyahan ng walang kasalanan.”

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