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Manny Pacquiao said “Oras naman ng mahirap na magpapatakbo ng bansa”

Philippine boxer and Senator Manny Pacquiao announced his candidacy for next year’s presidential elections, presenting a potential obstacle to President Rodrigo Duterte’s succession plans as the race for the top post takes shape.

A faction of the ruling PDP-Laban party nominated Pacquiao on Sunday in a video-streamed national convention. Earlier this month, another camp in the PDP-Laban led by Energy Secretary Alfonso Cusi named Senator Christopher “Bong” Go as its pick for the elections, with Duterte as his running mate.

“I’m a fighter and will always be a fighter, inside and outside of the ring,” Pacquiao said at the event. “All my life, I haven’t backed down from any fight. Nothing is impossible if it’s ordained by God.”

Pacquiao’s presidential bid is seen by analysts as a threat to Duterte’s candidate in 2022, as the boxer could split the vote in the southern island that both come from, opening the door for opposition figures. Pacquiao ranked fifth among 15 possible presidential candidates in a June survey by PulseAsia.

Pacquiao is known in the boxing world for his championships in several weight divisions, and was among the world’s highest-paid athletes in 2019, according to Forbes. In his latest bout last month, the 42-year-old lost to Cuban figher Yordenis Ugás.

The Filipino boxer has been a senator since 2016 and also served as a congressman. He was once a loyal ally to Duterte, defending the president’s deadly drug war and death penalty push. Recently, however, Pacquiao has criticized the administration for alleged corruption and its South China Sea stance, amid a split in the ruling party.

“We need progress, we need to win against poverty, we need government to serve our people with integrity, compassion and transparency,” Pacquiao said. “We are fed up with the promises of change.”

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