GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews/3 Nov) – Rep. Manny Pacquiao is no longer a regular habitué of the Presidential Palace where before he can just drive past its gates with ease in his silver Porsche Cayenne or any of his latest top-of-the-line sports vehicles.
Safe to say, too, he no longer probably receives regular hotline calls from the President or gets to attend dinner at Malacañang the way he used to during the previous administration.
Heck, even the P250-million presidential commitment for his pet hospital in Sarangani project may never come.
He says Congress is where he is meant to be when he joined politics, and probably the Presidential palace itself one day.
Pacquiao looked like he wants to occupy the highest elective post in the land through the backdoor when he announced he will be trading places with Sarangani Gov. Miguel Rene Dominguez in 2013.
Or is he now being pragmatic to realize a job at Congress will not do his presidential ambition any favor for as long as he will be treated as just one of the boys, even a “boylet” of powerful brokers of Congress?
No sooner than Pacquiao announced he was eyeing the presidency, Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile immediately doused his ambitions with a cold warning: the presidential race is more than just a snake pit.
And there is Pacquiao nemesis Vice President Jejomar Binay, one of the craftiest politician-operators Philippine politics has ever produced, not to mention all other presidential timbers waiting in the wings that he will have to contend with in a presidential race.
Pacquiao probably now realized that being one of the celebrity members of the House of Representative is not enough to sustain his presidential ambition in 2022, still 11 years ahead, without draining his not so bottomless pit war chest.
Come to think of it, Pacman knows – as his T-shirt slogan says – he cannot forever box, which is his main source of income. Once he quits or retires from boxing, so will the generous fight purses, commercial endorsements and perks quickly dry up.
So, he is running for governor in his adopted province of Sarangani in 2013. That is a big step backward if he thinks it will be his vehicle to the presidency. No Philippine governor has ever been elected president in the Philippines. No presidential contender has ever launched his presidential bid outside of the national capital and got away with it by winning.
The Philippine Senate is widely regarded as the honing ground for present and future presidential contenders. For Rep. Pacquiao’s political strategists, however, running for a Senate seat in 2016 while serving as governor in an impoverished province in faraway Mindanao, is a nightmare although not necessarily a political suicide.
Never mind if Pacquiao is a national treasure and is still able to bank on the goodwill of his unparalleled achievement in boxing by that time.
The senate race would be a different ballgame – the presidential race a different league of its own.
I always believe Rep. Pacquiao is cut for the executive job not in the halls of Congress where endless debates fill the hall.
Whether the governorship will eventually lead him to the presidency is always a career consideration for Pacquiao to weigh upon.
But I salute his decision to run for governor in Sarangani. After all, why be a tail of a lion when you can be the head of a rat? At least in your own little kingdom, you are king.
(Edwin G. Espejo writes for www.asiancorrespondent.com.)