Manny Pacquiao for President in 2022. Personality and politics in the Philippines.

Posted on | november 15, 2011 | 2 Comments

Manny Pacquiao retained his WBO Welterweight title, November 13 in Las Vegas

While the boxing world is a buzz over the controversial split-decision victory awarded the Philippine WBO Welterweight champion Manny Pacquiao on Sunday November 13th few take the boxer’s other career seriously; and yet since May 2010 Emmanuel Dapidran Pacquiao has been Congressman for the province of Sarangani in The Philippines.

This is not the first of Pacquiao’s ‘other’ careers. Since 2005 the boxer has starred in a number of Philippine movies and TV shows and is rumored to be set to make his Hollywood debut in a Sylvester Stallone production. However while his political career might not be taken seriously in the boxing world, it is nevertheless indicative of several seemingly enduring features of politics in the Philippines. And it is not inconceivable that one day the PacMan might add the title of President to his collection. Why?

Corazon Aquino, President of the Philippines 1986-1992

Politics is personal

In the Philippines personalities matter not political parties. Although in its initial post-independence years (1945-) two political parties dominated Philippine politics, in reality power was largely held by a small number of elite families whose fortunes and patronage were crucial. The Nacionalista and Liberal parties despite their names were essentially non-ideological, and thus prone to factionalism and personal political ambition. As a result political figures frequently switched party in order to further their own careers. Under the two decade long rule by Marcos political parties were further weakened following the banning of all political activity in 1972 and the creation of the Marcos government’s own vehicle the New Society (Kilusang Bagong Lipunan) movement. The resumption of democratic elections to The Philippines in 1986 has seen both the further proliferation of political parties and the increasing importance of personality, charisma and political connections. Indeed the prominent historian and political scientist Benedict Anderson dubbed this characteristic ‘Cacique democracy’ in 1988, depicting the country as an elite-led, elite-privileged patrimonial state. The piece famously begun by deconstructing the figure of the widow who had led the opposition to victory in the 1986 Corazon Aquino. Far from the mourning housewife she was depicted as, Anderson detailed her membership of the Cojuangco family, ‘one of the wealthiest and most powerful dynasties in Filipino oligarchy’. Her Uncle became governor of Tarlac in 1941, her cousin in 1967, her younger brother one of the state’s congressmen, while she served for 13 years as treasurer of the family holding company, a vast conglomerate with interests in finance, agriculture and real estate. Moreover her marriage to Benigno Aquino, Jr., ‘linked her to another key dynasty of Central Luzon’ .

While the role and influence of the oligarchs and dynasties today is hotly contested among academics, since Aquino politics in The Philippines has become increasingly ‘personality’-based. The first major challenge to the post-Marcos era dominance by the ‘old’ elites came from actor turned politician Joseph Estrada. Estrada, the star of over 100 movies, used his frequent cinematic portrayal as the champion of the poor to catapult himself to the Presidency in 1998 as leader of a newly formed political party, Partido ng Masang Pilipino (Party of the Filipino Masses). Nevertheless, for the elections to the House of Representatives that were held simultaneously, Estrada’s party ironically formed an electoral coalition with Nacionalista offshoot, the Nationalist People’s Coalition, run by Eduardo Cojuangco, Corazon’s cousin.

mmanual 'Manny' Pacquiao elected Congressman for Sarangani in May 2010 with 2/3 of the vote

Similarly the leading political force in The Philippines since the 1990, LAKAS-KAMPI-CMD was initially created as a vehicle for the Presidential ambitions of Estrada’s predecessor Fidel Ramos (1992-1998), before becoming closely associated with his successor Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo (2001-10). Although LAKAS routinely wins around a 1/3 of the seats in the House of Representatives it has largely emerged as the leading political force in the country by merging with smaller parties and has been beset by factionalism, including between Ramos and Arroyo. Meanwhile the 2010 Presidential elections were won by the son of Corazon Aquino, Benigno Cojuangco Aquino III (Noynoy), while the wife and children of the former dictator Ferdinand Marcos all won political office in 2010.

How does all this link to Manny Pacquiao? Elected in May 2010 to House of Representatives, PacMan (as he is known to his fans) has already shown himself to have political instincts. Initially elected as a member for the Nacionalista party he quickly transferred his loyalty to the Liberal Party of the new President Nonoy Aquino. While Pacquaio has stated his desire to be an agent for change, the switch was also designed to ensure that his district receives more government funds. In the meantime Paquiao’s sights will most likely continue to be set on a WBO-WBC fight against the undefeated Floyd Mayweather sometime in 2012. However, with his earnings from his extraordinarily successful boxing career, his national and global name recognition, and his expressed concern for the poor, PacMan could be a serious contender for the Presidency of the Philippines in 2022 (in 2016 he will be 37, three years below the minimum age requirement).

AUTHOR: Dr. Jason Abbott
E-MAIL: [at]


2 Responses to “Manny Pacquiao for President in 2022. Personality and politics in the Philippines.”

  1. Looking On
    november 15th, 2011 @ 13:03

    Nice analysis of the Philippines’ Politics and it’s rulers

  2. efren sawal
    november 15th, 2011 @ 15:35

    Why not !!!!

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