Boxer-turned-politician Manny Pacquiao is emerging as an obstacle to Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte’s succession plans when his single six-year term ends next year.
Pacquiao, a loyal ally to Duterte since his shock election win in 2016, has rankled loyalists to the strongman leader since becoming acting head of the president’s ruling PDP-Laban party in December. Tensions spiked last week when Pacquiao urged members to ignore a meeting convened by a rival that called on Duterte to pick the party’s presidential candidate in 2022 and run for vice president.
That party resolution opened the door for the 76-year-old leader to stay in a top government post as he looks to avoid criminal charges after he leaves office, a common occurrence in the Philippines. But it also complicates the presidential ambitions of Pacquiao, 42, who will be eligible to stand for the top job for the first time.
The boxer, who is set to fight undefeated rival Errol Spence Jr. in Las Vegas on Aug. 21, faces stiff competition for Duterte’s endorsement ahead of the May 2022 vote. Other prospective candidates include Sara Duterte, the president’s daughter, as well as his aide Senator Christopher “Bong” Go and Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. — the only son of the former Philippine dictator.