by Nicholai Rhiz Roska
LOS ANGELES -- Ring icon Manny Pacquiao isn't one to shy away from a fight, he said so himself repeatedly in the months leading up to the speculations that he will run for the highest office in the Philippines.
It was the tiny archipelago's longest and worst-kept secret. Until last weekend when boxing's only eight-division champion made it official that he is running for president in the May 2020 national elections.
"The time is now. I am ready to rise to the challenge of leadership," said the former Sarangani congressman and incumbent senator who will turn 43 this December.
Manny is ready. He always is. But are the Filipino people ready for PacMan as their president?
Only the polls, which has over 61 million voters according to the Comelec, will tell.
The author Nick Roska (R), a former correspondent for NBA.com Philippines and PhilBoxing, pose for posterity with Senator Manny Pacquiao who gave a pair of signed trunks for NBA star Derrick Rose.
There is, however, a precedent that makes way for a winning path for Pacquiao given that the Philippines once elected Joseph Estrada, a former actor-turned-politician, to the hallowed grounds of Malacanang Palace.
Like Estrade, Erap to his supporters, Pacquiao is exceedingly popular, has tremendous name recall, and possesses a multi-billion peso war chest needed to fund a robust campaign.
It won't be easy, however.
The presidential race is dotted with the names of political heavyweights that include former PNP chief and current Senator Ping Lacson, incumbent Manila Mayor Isko Moreno and presidential daughter Sara Duterte-Carpio.
Bongbong Marcos, the eldest child of deposed leader Ferdinand Marcos, is also expected to throw his hat on the ring.
A tough battle to conquer but senator Manny definitely is in the mix. He has what boxing experts call "a puncher's chance."
And one thing is sure. Win or lose, he'd give this fight his best.
"Para sa 'yo ang laban na to."