The boxer Manny Pacquiao has said he will run for president of the Philippines next year, after railing against corruption in government and President Rodrigo Duterte’s “cozy” relationship with China.
One of the greatest boxers of all time and the only man to hold world titles in eight divisions, Pacquiao accepted the nomination of his political allies during the national assembly of the faction he leads in the ruling PDP-Laban party, days after a rival faction nominated Duterte’s longtime aide, Christopher “Bong” Go, as its presidential candidate.
That faction nominated Duterte for vice-president, a move that critics called a cynical ploy by Duterte to retain power. Duterte is prohibited by the constitution from running for a second six-year term as president.
Go declined the nomination, but the rift between the Pacquiao and Duterte factions has escalated.
“I am a fighter and I will always be a fighter inside and outside the ring,” Pacquiao, a 42-year-old senator, said in a livestreamed speech during the assembly. “I am accepting your nomination as candidate for president of the Republic of the Philippines.”
Pacquiao’s faction has not expressed support for Duterte’s vice-presidential bid.
Despite his popularity, Pacquiao trails the frontrunners in opinion polls that have been topped consistently by Duterte’s daughter, Sara Duterte-Carpio.
In July, Pacquiao was voted out as PDP-Laban leader, weeks after challenging Duterte over his position on China and record on fighting corruption, but his removal was rejected by his faction.
Pacquiao, once a close ally of Duterte, had said more than 10bn pesos (£145m) in pandemic aid intended for poor families was unaccounted for.
His anti-corruption crusade comes as the senate has opened an investigation into alleged overpricing of medical supplies and equipment bought under the government’s pandemic response programme.
Duterte challenged Pacquiao to name corrupt government offices to prove that the boxer was not just politicking before the election.
Pacquiao countered by warning of jail for corrupt government officials. “Your time is up,” he said.