MANILA -- Two upcoming films portraying Filipino war heroes, and a pack of product endorsements, have ignited speculations that Sen. Manny Pacquiao may be positioning for a possible run for the presidency in 2022.
But if the senator, boxing’s only 8-division titlist, is indeed eyeing Malacañang, giving himself a head start of 31 months before elections also has its risks, said veteran campaign strategist Alan German.
“I do think it's early,” German told ABS-CBN News.
“Either you have a very substantial, massive war chest to keep this up. Otherwise makakalimutan ka rin ng tao [you will also be forgotten]. That’s more than 2 years away so the momentum might not be sustained even if he comes out with a movie.”
Pacquiao is set to play Miguel Malvar and Macario Peralta Jr., Filipino soldiers known in history for their courage and perseverance, qualities that fit into his own political brand, said German.
On the Philippine capital's main highway, giant billboards of Pacquiao's endorsements for online marketplace Shopee and canned sardines brand Uni-Pak have been put up.
The senator has played coy lately on his political ambitions in 3 years, despite appearing in several ads and the 2 movies in the works.
“I believe it is posturing already for a possible presidential run because it’s very consistent with his brand... If you’re being coy about it, may plano ka [you have a plan],” German said but conceded endorsements would have come anyway because of Pacquiao’s popularity.
In a 2013 interview with Agence France-Presse, Pacquiao admitted considering the presidency but said it was still “far away” and “it’s God’s will.”
Two years later, his former promoter Bob Arum predicted he would run for senator in 2016 and possibly for president in 2022.
The period of 18 to 20 months provides the “sweet spot” for a presidential aspirant to boost awareness among voters through carefully crafted messaging, said German, who handled the campaigns of several local and national candidates in the past.
Before this, he said a candidate might unnecessarily expose himself to attacks from others also gunning for the presidency but who opted not to reveal their political plans yet.
“You also do not want to bare your cards too early,” he said.
Former Vice President Jejomar Binay, for instance, acknowledged early during his term that he was eyeing the presidency.
Media exposés and a series of Senate investigations later followed on alleged corruption under his long watch as Makati City mayor, a sustained campaign seen to have jeopardized his chances in 2016.
Binay, once considered a favorite in the presidential race, placed fourth in that election, behind incumbent Rodrigo Duterte and Senators Mar Roxas and Grace Poe.
CHOICE OF ROLES
In Pacquiao’s case, German pointed to what appeared to be a calculated effort to raise public awareness of the senator.
The senator’s choice of war heroes as his movie characters seemed “very intentional,” a departure from some of the “whimsical” roles he played early in his acting stint, the campaign strategist said.
German also cited a recent video showing Pacquiao handing out money to the poor.
Last week, the billionaire senator told a Bacolod crowd that he liked to share his blessings noting “we can never bring our riches to our grave.“
“I'm not taking anything away from the sincerity and the goodness of the heart of the senator — baka naman talagang mabait si Manny and countless of people will attest to that,” said German.
”But if I were handling his campaign, and if I were handling his brandling, definitely I would leverage on those two points,” he added, citing a mix of courage and concern (“malasakit”).