QUEZON CITY – Is Filipino world boxing icon and Philippine Senator Emmanuel Manny Pacquiao running for president of the Philippines in the 2022 presidential, congressional and local elections?

Speculations are up that the former “poor boy” from General Santos City (he was born in Bukidnon) may be gearing up for the presidential polls following his assumption as the new national party president of President Rodrigo Duterte’s party, the PDP-Laban.

Pacquiao, 41, whose first six-year term as a senator ends on June 30, 2022, was installed by the party as it girds for the 2022 elections in ceremonies during the party’s fellowship night in Quezon City.

Pacquiao could run for reelection as senators are allowed two six-year terms, but he could also run for higher office like Vice President or President, according to political pundits.

Pacquiao has been mum on his political plans, pointing out in an interview with Radio-TV DWIZ “Sulong na Bayan” program hosts Lolly Rivera Acosta and Alfred Gabot that helping those affected by the pandemic, the recent typhoons and other calamities was his priority.

On the presidency, Pacquiao said that is God’s gift if it happens. “Kapalaran yan na bigay ng Diyos. Kung hindi mo kapalaran, wala tayong magagagawa,” he was quoted as saying in past interviews.

Pacquiao said he has also put his boxing plans in the backburner to be able to focus on helping his countrymen.

Pacquiao has not fought since July 2019, when he outpointed American boxer Keith Thurman in a thriller to claim the “super” version of the WBA welterweight championship, making Pacquiao the oldest welterweight champion in history at 40 years old. His boxing record now stands at 62 wins, seven losses, and two draws.

Throughout 2020, Pacquiao has been called out by several boxers, including Errol Spence, Danny Garcia, and most notably Terrence Crawford. The 33-year-old Crawford, widely acknowledged as one of the top pound-for-pound boxers in the world today, hopes to land a fight against the “Pacman” early next year.

Pacquiao told the Radio-TV DWIZ hosts that he has been assisting the people without any funfare or publicity. Lately, he visited and distributed relief goods and cash assistance to flood victims of Cagayan Valley, Bicol, Montalban and San Mateo in Rizal province and other areas.

During the same PDP-Laban event in Quezon City, House of Representatives Speaker Lord Allan Velasco was elected the PDP-Laban’s executive vice president.

Pacquiao said he was thankful for the trust given by his party and vowed to do what must be done for the group.

As early as 2016, President Duterte had declared that Pacquiao would become president. But Duterte’s support could swing to his daughter, Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio, if she decides to gun for the presidency although being discouraged by the President publicly.

“Fair but firm, this is the kind of leadership that you can expect from Manny Pacquiao PDP-Laban Party President,” Pacquiao said after his installation as reported by local media and television networks..

“To be given this rare opportunity to lead the PDP-Laban is an immense honor and responsibility. By God’s grace, I will not waste this platform that you have entrusted me,” he added.

Pacquiao and Velasco took their oath immediately before Sen. Aquilino Koko Pimentel, the outgoing national party president, who said Pacquiao will bring in new and modern ideas the political party needs ahead of the 2022 national elections.

With Pacquiao, Pimentel said he is confident PDP-Laban will remain the dominant party even after 2022.

The Marinduque lawmaker was offered to become the party’s secretary general to replace Davao del Norte Rep. Pantaleon Alvarez, but he refused, ABS-CBN and GMA News reported.

“I told Sen. Koko that there are a lot of work in the House of the Representatives that I really need to focus on,” Velasco said in his acceptance speech.

The post left by Alvarez remained vacant, and the party said it respected Alvarez’s decision to leave PDP-Laban.

“Wala pa. We are going to discuss that kung sino ang nararapat at nababagay sa pusisyon na iyan. Demokrasya naman tayo. Anyone can go out from the party, leave the party. Kung ano ang desisyon nila, so we respect that,” Pacquiao said.

Pacquiao, meanwhile, refused to comment on the the Duterte-Duterte tandem proposed by Chief Presidential Legal Counsel Salvador Panelo.

Panelo previously suggested that Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte run as president, while her father will be her running mate.

“In terms of politics, ayoko pag-usapan ang pulitika. Ang dapat natin pag-usapan at kung ano ang maitutulong natin sa ating mga kababayan na nagugutom, naghihirap walang mga tahanan,” said Pacquiao.

“Wala pa naman eleksyon, malayo pa iyon at hindi pa dapat pag-usapan iyan (Let’s not talk politics. We should focus on helping our hungry countrymen, the poor and have no shelter. The elections are still far away, let’s not talk about that now.),” Pacquiao said.