Pacquiao concedes defeat in Philippine election

Pacquiao concedes defeat in Philippine election

Manny Pacquiao poses for a photograph during an interview at his campaign headquarters in Makati City, the Philippines, on April 7, 2022. (Photo: Reuters)

Boxing great Manny Pacquiao has conceded defeat in the Philippine presidential election after his rumble for the top job failed to hit the mark with voters.

Pacquiao, who had pledged to fight corruption, crack down on drugs and improve the lives of the impoverished, congratulated overwhelming victor Ferdinand Marcos Junior and said he hoped the son of the late dictator would “help the poor”.

“As a boxer and athlete, I know how to accept defeat,” Pacquiao, 43, said in a video posted on Facebook late Tuesday.

“I just hope that while I lose in this fight, my fellow Filipinos — those who are struggling — will win.”

Pacquiao, a fervent evangelical Christian, said he prayed for the success of the Marcos administration and that it would “uplift the lives and help many poor”.

Pre-election surveys indicated Pacquiao had almost no chance of winning the polls, and their results were confirmed by an initial tally showing he picked up fewer than four million votes, or 6.6% of those counted.

That left him a distant third behind Marcos, who got more than half the votes, and runner-up Leni Robredo.

Pacquiao announced his retirement from boxing in September, shortly before declaring his run for the presidency, and previously told AFP he would not return to the ring if he lost.

His failed tilt has ended his political career, for now at least.

The former congressman had to give up running for a second term in the celebrity-packed Senate, which he likely would have had a strong chance of winning.

After a gruelling months-long campaign, Pacquiao said he would take the chance to “rest and spend time with my family”.

Beyond that, he would continue to work with his charitable foundation.

Pacquiao is deeply admired across the archipelago for his rise from desperate street kid to one of the greatest pound-for-pound fighters of all time.

But he has stirred controversy as a politician and had embraced the most extreme policies of outgoing President Rodrigo Duterte before distancing himself from the authoritarian firebrand following a public spat last year.

Pacquiao was a high-profile supporter of Duterte’s deadly drug war — despite his previous admissions of using crystal meth and marijuana when younger — and pushed to restore the death penalty.

Critics accused the high-school dropout of lacking intellect and barely turning up to sessions in Congress and the Senate, which had raised questions about his ability to run the country of 110 million people.