GENERAL SANTOS CITY, Philippines?Just last Friday, world boxing superstar Manny Pacquiao parried questions about his future political plans here.
"Malayo pa ang 2010, kalimutan muna natin ang politika (2010 is far off, let?s set aside politics for the meantime)," Pacquiao said, when asked to confirm talks he was eyeing the lone congressional seat in Sarangani Province.
But on Monday morning, shortly after he transferred his voter's registration in Kiamba, the hometown of his wife, Jinkee, he declared he would run for congressman in Sarangani in 2010.
"I've decided to run in Sarangani because by 2010, I consider the congressional seat vacant," Pacquiao told reporters.
Sarangani Representative Erwin Chiongbian is on his last term. The Chiongbians made a public pronouncement a few months ago that undefeated former governor Priscilla Chiongbian will run for Congress.
But many people doubted the capacity of the Chiongbian matriarch to sustain or finish the 45-day rigorous campaign due to her deteriorating health condition.
The former provincial executive is already wheelchair-bound and could hardly walk or talk.
"Plano kong tumakbo dito sa Sarangani. Preparasyon ito para sa 2010 (I plan to run for office here in Sarangani. This is my preparation for 2010)," Pacquiao said.
The Filipino ring icon was a registered voter in General Santos, where he ran against and lost to Darlene Custodio in a lopsided contest for South Cotabato?s first congressional district seat in 2007.
Pacquiao, along with some local politicians who kept on chasing his shadow, motored to Kiamba before proceeding to Maitum to join the 40th day commemoration of the death of his friend, former mayor Felix Reganit.
From there, the Pacquiao group went to Maasim to visit evacuees displaced by the armed fighting between the government troops and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front.
Local politicians who accompanied Pacquiao to Kiamba were Malungon mayor Reynaldo Constantino, former Alabel town mayor Narciso Grafilo, former Malapatan town mayor Alfonso Singcoy, former Kiamba town mayor Danny Martinez, as well as incumbent board members Victor James Yap and Lemuel Gacula.
Pacquiao was mobbed by fans who tried to shove each other just to take the picture of, or catch a close glimpse of their boxing hero.
Aside from Chiongbian, the other possible Pacquiao opponent is incumbent governor Miguel Dominguez. All three are known allies of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.
Chiongbian and Dominguez are known billionaires, and so is the Pacquiao.