MANILA (UPDATE) — Presidential aspirant Sen. Manny Pacquiao on Wednesday said he is open to a possible endorsement by President Rodrigo Duterte for his 2022 plans.
The retired boxing champ's statement came after Duterte's preferred choice for his successor next year, Sen. Christopher "Bong" Go, announced he is dropping out of the presidential race.
"Kung ie-endorso ako, walang problema. Pagkakaisa naman ang isinusulong natin kasi biblical naman yan eh. '[If] a kingdom is divided against themselves, that kingdom cannot stand. If a house is divided, that house cannot stand,'" said Pacquiao whose relations with Duterte soured a few months ago after he criticized the latter's policy on the South China Sea and accused the health department of graft and corruption.
(If he's going to endorse me, no problem. Unity is what we're looking for, that's in the Bible.)
Duterte and Pacquiao, who both hail from Mindanao, met last Nov. 9 in Malacanang for a "renewal of friendship", according to Go, months after their public rift. The Palace said it was Go, Duterte's longtime aide and Pacquiao's "kumpare", who requested for the meeting of the former allies.
After being criticized by his fellow PDP-Laban official, Duterte did not mince words in hitting Pacquiao back, even using an expletive as he accused the senator of "playing politics" if he does not back his corruption allegations against the administration.
Duterte had said he would expose Pacquiao as a liar "daily" if the latter fails to name corrupt officials.
The war of words between the two erupted amid a battle for control over their party as two factions that emerged had their respective bets for the 2022 presidential race.
Pacquiao was endorsed by the wing led by Sen. Aquilino "Koko" Pimentel III, while Go was being pushed by the other faction led by Energy Sec. Alfonso Cusi. Duterte is backing the Cusi wing.
Pacquiao eventually filed his candidacy for president under PROMDI party while claiming he remains part of PDP-Laban, while Go went on to file, first, as vice presidential bet of PDP-Laban (Cusi wing), then later as presidential bet of the Pederalismo ng Dugong Dakilang Samahan.
Sen. Ronald "Bato" Dela Rosa initially filed as PDP-Laban's presidential bet, but later withdrew, leaving the ruling party without any standard bearer next year.
On Tuesday, Go said he is backing out of the presidential race because it was never his and his family's desire for him to seek the country's highest post.
Former presidential spokesman Harry Roque had said that prior to the rift between Duterte and Pacquiao, the latter was being considered as among next year's potential presidential aspirants who could’ve had the chief executive's backing.
Meanwhile, Pacquiao said Go's decision to back out of the presidential race does not concern him.
"Hindi ko naman ito iniisip na advantge sa akin or disadvantage sa akin. Basta ang akin, patuloy ang pakikipag-usap sa mga tao on the ground. Ipaalam natin programa natin para sa kanila," he said.
(I am not thinking about this as advantageous or disadvantageous to me. For me, I should just continue talking to the people on the ground. We need to inform the people of our programs.)
He also said it is up to Duterte, who filed his candidacy for senator next year, if the latter wants to join the boxing legend's senatorial slate.
For Cusi, Pacquiao has this to say amid what happened to PDP-Laban's plans for 2022 : "Si Cusi talaga ay matagal na diyan sa posisyon na 'yan. Dapat ang solusyunan niya, mga problema sa kuryente kasi 'pag may brownout, isa yan sa mga hindrance ng mga investor na pumasok dito sa Pilipinas."
(Cusi has been in that position for a long time. He should find solutions for our power problems since that's one of the reasons hindering investors to enter the Philippines.)
"Focus siya sa trabaho niya, 'wag sa pulitika. Hindi siya pulitiko eh, ano siya nagseserbisyo sa tao. So 'wag siya makialam. Tingnan mo, sinira niya, kinuha niya PDP. Tapos, anong nangyari? Ginulo lang niya talaga 'yung mga PDP eh. Tapos iniwanan lang din niya mga tao," he added.
(He should focus on his work, not on politics. He's not a politician. He serves the people. So he should not get involved in politics. Look at what happened, he tried to take over PDP. And what happened now? He just made a mess in PDP. Then he abandoned the members.)
Cusi said Duterte would "soon" pick a new standard-bearer for their party for the May 9, 2022 elections.
Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles, another official of the PDP-Laban (Cusi wing), said the party has the option to adopt a presidential candidate.
Manila Mayor Isko Moreno Domagoso, another 2022 presidential aspirant, said Tuesday he will not also refuse Duterte's endorsement if it comes.
"Di ako tatanggi. Ang pulubi, di makakapamili. Kailangan ko lahat ng klaseng tulong, ordinaryong tao, kahit sinong tao, kasi mabigat na laban ito. Malaki ang Pilipinas," said Domagoso, who last August reacted to Duterte's tirades against an unnamed Metro Manila mayor for having a "disorganized mind" and having lewd photos circulating online.
(I will not refuse. The poor can't be choosy. I need all forms of help from ordinary people and anybody, because this is an important battle. the Philippines is a big country.)
In an interview posted on YouTube last Nov. 14, Duterte said he is not supporting the presidential bid of former Sen. Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos, Jr., or of Pacquiao and others as he commits to back only Go, citing the latter's "honesty".
— Report from Robert Mano, ABS-CBN News