The legendary boxer Manny Pacquiao, candidate for the Philippine presidential election, admits having used drugs in his youth but promises, in case of victory, to continue to fight against this traffic, poverty and corruption which plague the archipelago.
The champion said in an interview with AFP to have shown “naivety” and ignorance when young, he consumed methamphetamine.
Today, Pacquio, who has always supported the murderous campaign against drug trafficking led by outgoing President Rodrigo Duterte, intends to “imprison drug users, those who sell them”.
With the approach of the poll, scheduled for May 2022, the boxer however distances himself from Rodrigo Duterte who is the subject of an investigation by the International Criminal Court for this anti-drug war marked by thousands of murders committed by the law enforcement. He intends to give offenders a “chance to defend themselves”.
“We must jail the drug users, those who sell drugs – that’s what the law says,” promising to continue the fight against drugs “in the right way.”
“Before, I was naive, that’s why I took drugs (…) I did not know the law”, told AFP Pacquiao, 42, entered politics in 2012, first in as a member of Congress then now in the Senate.
Today, “people know that drugs are prohibited by law.”
In 2016, Pacquiao revealed that as a teenager he used marijuana and drugs and “shabu”, a Filipino term for a highly addictive type of methamphetamine.
– “No reverse gear” –
Born in a world of extreme poverty, he experienced a meteoric rise, becoming one of the greatest adored boxers of all time in his country.
He promised to tackle poverty and corruption, hoping to seduce voters with his own story.
A Pacquiao victory is not unrealistic in a country whose political class is littered with celebrities.
A poll carried out in October by the Social Weather Stations institute shows that the ex-boxer would come in fourth place, collecting only 9% of the votes.
The son and namesake of ex-dictator Ferdinand Marcos, Ferdinand Marcos Jr, would lead with 47% of the vote.
Behind him are the current vice-president, Leni Robredo, Rodrigo Duterte’s big rival, would win 18% and the actor and mayor of Manila Francisco Domagoso (13%).
Sitting in front of a prompt in his luxurious villa in Manila, Pacquiao prefers to ignore his poor results and focus on his campaign dubbed “the man of destiny.”
“I do not plan to go back,” he insists as a plethora of employees are busy in his home, located in a secure enclave for billionaires and foreign ambassadors.
“The people will choose … I know they want change, end corruption, they want a prosperous country and work.”
Supporters of the ex-boxer see his journey as proof that success is possible for anyone who works hard, regardless of their background.
But as a politician and a fervent evangelical Christian, Pacquiao, yet adored in his country, has sparked controversy through his support for Duterte’s anti-drug fight and his desire to restore the death penalty.
– “I’m done” with boxing –
The homophobic remarks he made in the past as well as his confessions concerning his drug use were not unanimous either.
The one who dropped out of school at 14 to work is also accused of not sitting regularly in the Senate or Congress, raising questions about his ability to rule a country of 110 million people.
He publicly fell out this year with the current president who is still very popular with Filipinos.
“He might be popular with the masses, but so are some of the other candidates,” said Ted Lerner, an American-born sports reporter in the Philippines who predicts his return to the ring.
The world champion in eight categories including six from major federations – a record – says he does not consider fighting again in case of failure in the presidential election.
“I’m already 43 years old, so that’s enough for me, I’m done,” says the father of five, who has experienced alcohol, gambling and infidelity problems.
If his presidential bid fails, he plans to add “farmer” to his resume, growing fruit on a 20-hectare property in the southern province of Sarangani.
“It’s also quiet (over there), I like it,” he said, before opening his smartphone and playing the ballad “One Friend” by American country singer Dan Seals.