Pacquiao votes in Sarangani

GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews/10 May) — Boxing champion and Sarangani congressional candidate Manny Pacquiao cast his vote early this morning in Kiamba town in Sarangani Province, expecting no less than a win in his second attempt for a seat in the House of Representatives.

Pacquiao, who was accompanied by his wife Jinkee and several supporters, voted at around 8:20 a.m. at precinct 4B inside the Kiamba Central Elementary School compound in Poblacion, Kiamba.

The boxing champion’s group, who initially gave notice to turn up at the polling center at 7am, arrived more than 30 minutes behind schedule amid a tight security in the area.

He was met by a throng of excited supporters, boxing fans and a mix of local and foreign journalists who have been following his political saga.

But just like a regular voter, Pacquiao, who was listed as voter no. 121, immediately joined the queue in front of the polling precinct and waited for more than 30 minutes before finally casting his vote.

“I’ve been waiting for this. This is judgment day,” a smiling Pacquiao told reporters.

Pacquiao, currently the reigning World Boxing Organization (WBO) welterweight champion, is seeking the lone congressional seat of Sarangani Province under his own local political party People’s Champ Movement (PCM).

PCM, which has fielded complete provincial and municipal slates, earlier forged alliance with the Nacionalista Party of presidential candidate Manny Villar.

The boxing champion is up against businessman Roy Chiongbian, brother of outgoing Rep. Erwin Chiongbian, of administration coalition Lakas-Kampi-CMD-Sarangani Reconciliation and Reformation Organization (Sarro).

In the 2007 elections, Pacquiao, then a resident of this city, joined the race for the first congressional district seat of South Cotabato but he lost to incumbent Rep. Darlene Antonino-Custodio.

He has since moved his official residence to Kiamba, his wife Jinkee’s hometown, to allow him to join the political arena in Sarangani.

Pacquiao said he has campaigned hard this time to secure himself a big win in this election.

Earlier surveys showed the boxing champion in a tight battle with Chiongbian, whose family has dominated Sarangani’s politics since it was carved out of South Cotabato in 1992.

“I’m very confident (of winning) this election and I thank God for placing me in this situation,” he added.(Allen V. Estabillo/MindaNews)