Wednesday, October 20, 2021

Philippine Boxing Star Manny Pacquiao To Run for Congress, Says President Duterte Violated Voting Rights

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Manny Pacquiao, the Philippine boxing star, is running for a seat in the House of Representatives in an attempt to outdo his rival, the incumbent congressman Andres Bautista, and finish the job that both men started. Mr. Bautista chairs the House appropriations committee. Mr. Pacquiao is running for a seat representing Sarangani province.

Before his expected victory on May 9, Mr. Pacquiao recently released a rap video that takes aim at Mr. Duterte, the president. Mr. Pacquiao says Mr. Duterte has “violated” Philippine voters by offering them “a part of their own lives, by selling them out to the highest bidder.” The lyrics include the line, “I’ll sell out my soul, oh…”

To sweeten the pot, the video is accompanied by a Starburst ad. The song, released in April, is titled “Better Angels.” The lyrics include a number of stark, three-word messages, including “things have gotten out of hand,” “Let’s do something,” and “Let’s be better angels.”

Mr. Bautista, also a boxer, has been Mr. Pacquiao’s sparring partner since they were young boys. As a member of Congress, Mr. Bautista has proposed some of the president’s most controversial policies, including the call to “be more aggressive against drugs.” But he is equally as vicious against his opponent. In November 2016, he quoted the Buddhist precept “do not envy your neighbor” and said he would “kill Pacquiao.”

What makes their campaigns stand out is the fact that the candidates are not much interested in getting along with each other. Last week, both men joined hands to stump for votes in a region in Sarangani. Mr. Bautista, accompanied by a massive military contingent, came bearing gifts for the crowd of 3,000, including four dozen vehicles.

Mr. Pacquiao also showed up to campaign on the same day, but left shortly after the crowd started chanting “U-S-A.” Mr. Bautista said in an interview that Mr. Pacquiao was never invited to the event.

“I was not trying to squash him and entertain his ego,” Mr. Bautista said. “I know his idea that I am his arch-nemesis, but that does not mean I will bow to his wishes.”

Despite his aversion to one another, these candidates both desperately want to end the Duterte administration. So it comes as no surprise that they seem to be using the violent, anti-drug war of the president as a hook for their campaigns.

Several Filipinos interviewed in Jakarta, Indonesia, said that Mr. Pacquiao is a respected icon and that they were surprised that he had not taken up more conservative political positions.

Mr. Pacquiao’s popularity is riding on his highly anticlerical political career. In Mr. Bautista’s home district, there is a public school named after him in Caloocan City. While ordinary citizens there acknowledge that Mr. Bautista is a good lawmaker, they see Mr. Pacquiao as not so thoughtful, as if he has come from outside.

Mr. Bautista, meanwhile, said that he is running on promises to lower taxes, reduce university fees and bring workers back to the country.

“If this election is an intellectual duel, I think I am winning hands down,” Mr. Bautista said.

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