Opposition prepares for Paquiao’s entry in polls

PHILIPPINE NEWS SERVICE — GENERAL SANTOS CITY: Leaders of the opposition Nationalist People’s Coalition (NPC) here and in nearby South Cotabato have started to consolidate their campaign machineries in preparation for the possible entry of boxing superstar Manny Pacquiao in the area’s electoral race.

Gov. Daisy Avance-Fuentes of South Cotabato, NPC regional chairman, admitted they would need to put up a bigger campaign in the area in case Pacquiao decides to run for mayor of this city or for the province’s first district congressional seat in the May 14 elections.

“We are always running scared because we don’t underestimate our opponents. We look at Manny Pacquiao as a very strong candidate and therefore we will prepare for him accordingly,” she said.

Pacquiao intimated his plans to join the political race two weeks ago during a caucus of the administration- backed political party Lakas-Christian Muslim Democrats in the city.

He promised to “seriously consider” the party’s offer for him to either run against reelectionists City Mayor Pedro Acharon Jr. or Rep. Darlene Antonino-Custodio of the First District of South Cotabato of the NPC.

The first congressional district covers this city and the towns of Tampakan, Tupi, and Polo­molok in South Cotabato.

Pacquiao was born and raised in this city but also traces his roots in Tampakan, South Cotabato, where his father hails.

With his overwhelming popularity and wealth, Fuentes said Pacquiao has strong chances of winning an election but stressed that his lack of experience in governance and politics will only bring more problems to the area.

“Manny is no doubt one of the best boxers in the world today. But I would not bet on him to run for any political post because he has not even experienced being elected as PTA [Parents Teachers Association] official,” she said.

Fuentes advised local Lakas leaders to “pity Manny because when he wins, the people will suffer.”

She urged Pacquiao to just concentrate on boxing, especially on his upcoming fights.

Fuentes said Pacquiao should instead support the reelection bids of Acharon and Custodio, whom she described as “excellent leaders and should get elected again.”

Pacquiao has not yet made an official declaration about his political plans but sources close to him repeatedly claimed that the ring icon would definitely run in the coming polls.

Lawyer Franklin Gacal Jr., Pacquiao’s legal adviser, said his client is still making some consultations regarding his possible entry into the local political arena.

Gacal, a former city councilor and one of the prominent Lakas leaders in the city, is also waiting for Pacquiao’s decision before deciding on which position to seek in the May polls.

Pacquiao was reported last year to have decided to run as mayor of Kiamba, Sarangani province, where his wife Jinkee hails. Last month, it was rumored that he might decide to be the running mate of mayoral bet Ali Atienza in Manila.