MANILA, Philippines — President Rodrigo Duterte predicted Saturday night that neophyte senator and boxing champion Manny “Pacman” Pacquiao would become president and even gave him an advice in the event that he occupies Malacañan.
In a freewheeling speech delivered during Pacquiao’s 38th birthday celebration in General Santos, Duterte referred to the senator as “president-to-be.”
“I asked permission from President-to-be Manny Pacquiao. Ako, nagbitaw na ako ng salita, oo, klaro na ’yan (I already said my piece. It’s clear),” the president said, drawing applause from the audience.
Duterte’s advice to Pacquiao came after he chided his critics for supposedly trivializing the drug menace in the country.
“Look. Ito ha. Man, magpulitiko ka. Man, magigng presidente ka rin, tingin ko eh, totoo. (Manny, you are a politician and I think you will also become a president),” Duterte said.
“Sundan mo lang ang linya mo at ganun lang ang ugali mo — ‘yang style mo, stay humble. Mababa lang (Follow your lines and retain your style. Stay humble),” he added.
Pacquiao is one of the allies of Duterte in the Senate but he was part of the senatorial ticket of former Vice President Jejomar Binay during the 2016 polls.
In an interview last May, Pacquiao claimed that he has always been supportive of Duterte’s advocacies and that he is not affected by criticisms that he is a political turncoat.
Duterte also teased Pacquiao about seeking the presidency during their meeting in Malacañan last month.
Pacquiao’s promoter Bob Arum also believes that the boxer turned politician would eventually seek the highest electoral post in the land.