PHILIPPINE NEWS SERVICE — WORLD boxing champion and Time magazine cover Manny “Pacman” Pacquiao declared his all-out support for Nacionalista Party (NP) president and standard-bearer Sen. Manny Villar.
Villar swore in Pacquiao, who is running for congressman of Saranggani, along with his People’s Champ Movement local party slate, in the boxing icon’s mansion in General Santos following his 31st birthday celebration at the KCC Events and Convention Center attended by over 2,000 guests including Villar.
“Manny Pacquiao, who has thrown his best punches to hoist our country’s pride and honor, is a deeply valued partner in our campaign to help keep our people from being knocked out by extreme hardships,” the NP standard-bearer, who was born to poverty in Tondo, said.
Villar likewise emphasized, “Our affinity is anchored on our common backgrounds in poverty where we harnessed the Filipino values of hard work and determination which have seen us through our struggles.”
Pacquiao said, “Talagang nanggaling siya (Villar) sa hirap, at kung tutuusin, galing din ako sa hirap gaya niya. Siya ang karapat-dapat suportahan dahil alam niya ang damdamin ng mga mahihirap. Ito ay pabor sa atin, ang damdamin ng mahihirap, alam niya ’yan.”
Taking oath as Nacionalistas with Pacquaio were his gubernatorial running mate Juan Domino and vice gubernatorial bet newly retired provincial administrator Fred Basino, along with two board members and seven mayors of Saranggani. Pacquiao’s lawyer Franklin Gacal, congressional candidate for South Cotabato’s first district, also took oath before the NP standard-bearer. NP senatorial bet Ilocos Norte Rep. Bongbong Marcos attended the event.
At his birthday bash, Pacquiao introduced Villar as “the upcoming president” of the Philippines, and asked the NP standard-bearer to draw the winner of a brand-new car which the world’s No. 1 pound-for-pound boxer raffled off.
The well-loved Pacman is the first fighter in boxing history to win seven world titles in seven different weight divisions, following his victory over Miguel Cotto in Las Vegas on Nov. 14 via technical knockout in the 12th round. It was the most watched boxing event of the year where Pacman gained the WBO World Welterweight title.
As cover of the prestigious Time Magazine, Pacquiao earlier said, “It is a great honor for me to be the face of my people and let everyone know we are a small but mighty country.” He joined the ranks of international sports superstars Michael Phelps, Serena and Venus Williams, Michael Jordan and Tiger Woods as covers.
He arose from a niche sports star to a mainstream figure worldwide, with Time Magazine citing him anew as among its list of “people who mattered.” Pacquiao is also the first athlete the Philippine Postal Corp. has honored with his own stamp. The crime rate in the country dips during Pacquiao’s bouts, which are heavily viewed and cheered.