Manny Pacquiao’s public-service calling has taken him one more significant step toward a possible run at the Philippines presidency with his Thursday proclamation as a senator.
Pacquiao won the seat by virtue of more than 16 million votes and a seventh-place finish in a Senate run for 12 open spots.
He announced he was retiring from boxing following his April 9 unanimous-decision victory over Timothy Bradley at MGM Grand in Las Vegas.
Pacquiao’s rise from the depths of poverty in the country was stirring, given his $150-million purse gained in his May 2015 loss to Floyd Mayweather Jr. in the richest prizefight in history, and the routine $25-million paydays he collected toward the back end of his career following his 2008 stoppage of Oscar De La Hoya.
“I accept the challenge with utmost humility and gratitude,” Pacquiao said in his acceptance speech. “For the millions of common folks who believe in my capacity to put into words what they cannot express; to champion the causes closest to their hearts; and to serve them in a higher and greater platform, you have just won a seat in the Senate.
“This is for the youth, especially for some 4 million of them who are out of school. We can finally resume our crusade for a quality free public education. In time, there will be no Filipino student dropping out of school because of financial constraints.”
The Associated Press reported from Manila that Pacquiao said he would support a proposal by crime-busting President-elect Rodrigo Duterte to reimpose the death penalty. That comment from the religious Pacquiao differs from the opposition of the country’s dominant Roman Catholic church. He added he would oppose any proposed divorce bill.
He said the first bill he would file would grant free elementary-to-college education for children from poor families, a proposal that has not been realized in the past due to extensive costs. More than a fourth of the more than 100 million Filipinos are considered poor.
He also promised to be an advocate for common workers, farmers, athletes and others in need of a boost from the government.
While Pacquiao may still feel a tug to fight again after his impressive victory over Bradley -- Mayweather has spoken of returning from retirement for a nine-figure purse that someone like Pacquiao could generate -- the fighter this week wanted his countryman to know his Senate work would be an extension of the deeds he did before elected office by handing out money to hundreds who’d line up at his door.
He also promised to be present in his position after often missing votes as a congressman in the country since 2010.
“For those who still do not fully believe in my intentions and capabilities -- those whose trust I have yet to gain – I’ll work harder to reach out to you and get you on the side of our helpless Filipino masses,” Pacquiao said in his speech.
“In closing, I want to reiterate what I have been telling my countrymen from the mountain ranges in Luzon, to the coastal towns of Visayas, to the riverside settlements of Mindanao: I will not let you down. I will not steal from you. I will not fail you. Rest assured I do everything for God and our country.”