Pacquiao says he won’t be counted out of presidential race

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Senator and former boxer Emmanuel “Manny” D. Pacquiao shrugs off his low rating in polls and says his impoverished heritage makes him the best person to run for president, while warning voters to avoid candidates with corruption.

Mr. Pacquiao wondered why people supported Ferdinand “Bongbong” R. Marcos, Jr., the current frontrunner for the May 9 vote, pointing to the looting of the country’s wealth during his late father’s harsh authoritarian rule. and namesake.

“The root cause of our country’s problem is corruption and then we would vote for a candidate infected with corruption? What has happened to us as a nation? Where is our intelligence?” Mr Pacquiao said late Thursday in an interview with Reuters.

Mr Pacquiao is in fourth place in the latest poll with 6%, well behind Mr Marcos, who is in the lead with 56%.

The incumbent senator has made the fight against corruption a core focus of his campaign, pledging to step up efforts to recover billions of dollars missing since the fall of the Marcos dictatorship in 1986, as part of his anti-graft platform. .

Mr Marcos’ family was accused of looting an estimated $10 billion during his late father’s 20-year reign, and spending on jewelry, real estate and artwork, including those of Pablo Picasso and Claude Monet.

“Why do we live in poverty? Because we have no money? wrong. Because of corruption,” said Mr. Pacquiao at his campaign headquarters.

Mr Marcos’ camp did not immediately respond to a request for comment, but the candidate has previously said he cannot apologize for what his father has done.

Mr. Pacquiao also spoke with incumbent President Rodrigo R. Duterte about territorial disputes in the South China Sea. He said he would not be bullied by China if he won the presidency.

“I dare you, harass the Philippine fishermen and I am the one to face you,” said Mr. Pacquiao in comments addressed to China. “Being bullied is not in my vocabulary.”

China reiterates its claims to sovereignty in the disputed waterway as Manila complains about its actions against Philippine fishermen.

Mr Duterte has been criticized for not confronting China about the behavior of its military, coastguard and fishing fleet in the waters around the archipelago, arguing that it was futile because Manila was no match for Beijing’s military might.

If necessary, Mr. Pacquiao pledged to deploy naval vessels in the disputed waters to protect his country’s fishermen and said he appreciates his country’s relationship with the United States, which he referred to as “our best friend.” .

The only man with world titles in eight different divisions. mr. Pacquiao retired from boxing in September after the sport brought him immense wealth to propel him from humble beginnings as a dirt-poor youth doing odd jobs to survive.

Mr Pacquiao said he was unimpressed by his low rating in polls, confident that the poor would provide the votes for him on Election Day.

His impoverished beginnings made him the best person to take on the presidency because he understood what it was like to be poor, he said.

“When we talk about poverty, that’s not a concept for Manny Pacquiao. I have felt and experienced that and that is why I want to lift people out of poverty,” he said. † Karen Lema and Neil Jerome Morales/Reuters

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