Pacquiao may run as an independent in 2022

By Kyle Aristophere T. Atienza and Alyssa Nicole O. Tan

SENATOR Emmanuel “Manny” D. Pacquiao, Sr. will independently run for President next year if he loses control of the ruling Partido Demokratiko Pilipino–Lakas ng Bayan (PDP-Laban), a party official said on Monday.

The boxing champion was unlikely to join another political party, Ronwald F. Munsayac, executive director of the PDP-Laban faction loyal to Mr. Pacquiao, told an online news briefing.

Rival parties are said to be willing to take the senator in, but he would only “accept their support, not join them,” he added.

The boxing champ did not immediately reply to a text message seeking comment.

But Jake Joson, a long-time special assistant and business partner of Mr. Pacquiao, said Mr. Munsayac should not tell him what to do. He added that the senator is considered by rival parties as a “big asset.”

“The filing of certificates of candidacy is still in October,” he said. “Many changes can still happen.”

The faction led by Mr. Pacquiao on Sunday ousted President Rodrigo Duterte as chairman, replacing him with Senator Aquilino L. Pimentel III. The President had supported the faction led by Energy Secretary Alfonso G. Cusi.

Mr. Munsayac said the Pacquiao group was confident of being upheld by the Commission on Elections as the rightful party officials.

Meanwhile, Senator Christopher Lawrence T. Go declined his nomination by the Cusi faction as PDP-Laban’s presidential bet.

“As I have said many times before, I am not interested in the presidency,” he said in a letter to Mr. Cusi. The senator said he wanted to focus on measures seeking to fight the coronavirus pandemic.

Mr. Duterte, who is barred by law from running for reelection, this month accepted the party’s endorsement for him to run for vice president

Mr. Munsayac said the President’s ouster was meant to save the party. He added that Mr. Duterte had ignored members’ plea to sit down and talk with Mr. Pacquiao, insulting him instead.

The administration of Mr. Duterte is likely to be divided further as the 2022 elections draw near, political analysts said.

“It is possible that there will be a more formal split with two factions surviving or one faction will wither away if there is no sufficient support,” Maria Ela L. Atienza, a political science professor at the University of the Philippines Diliman, said in a Viber message.

The split is typical among Philippine political parties that fail to agree on their chosen candidates, she said.

“If the Pimentel-Pacquiao wing remains strong in terms of supporters and Pacquiao is serious in his presidential bid, support for the President and his anointed presidential candidate will be challenged,” Ms. Atienza said.

The Mindanao support for the Dutertes will be split if Mr. Pacquiao goes ahead with his presidential ambition, she added.

“This demonstrates the disintegration of the coalition,” Antonio M. La Viña, former dean of the Ateneo de Manila University School of Government, said by telephone.

“Pacquiao will also get a lot of votes from Mindanao since he’s one of the most favored candidates in that region,” he said.

Mr. La Viña said the rift could lead to a legal battle if the two camps refuse to accept the election body’s ruling.

“The camp of Pimentel should win the legal contest,” he said. “PDP-Laban is a party of the Pimentels. They have won several times already at the Supreme Court.”

The camp led by Mr. Cusi “has a little advantage because the President is on their side,” said Michael Henry Ll. Yusingco, a senior research fellow at the Ateneo Policy Center.

“They can manipulate the news cycle and get the free airtime they need,” he said in a Facebook Messenger chat. “They have the entire bureaucracy at their disposal.”

He said the rift is irreparable. “The legal proceedings, if commenced, will just determine which faction has the right to carry the name of the party, but it will not settle the acrimony between them.”

The party rift would not matter to voters because Philippine politics is personality-driven, said Jean Encinas-Franco, a political science professor at the University of the Philippines.

“Probably, it will not have an effect on their election prospects since Filipinos do not vote via party lines,” she said in a Facebook Messenger chat.

“In the Philippines, political parties do not really matter” Mr. La Viña said. “They have never mattered in the elections. It’s just about branding.”

The PDP-Laban rift is “an opportunity for the opposition to exploit,” Ms. Atienza said. “But they need a stronger, more united opposition behind a viable opposition candidate.”

“There is still no credible threat to the administration’s chances of winning in the 2022 polls because their opponents are still scrambling to form a united front,” Mr. Yusingco said.

“However, if the opponents of the administration are able to muster a unified challenge under the banner of a single candidate for President, then this can force some administration allies to reconsider their positions” he added.

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