MANILA, Philippines: Boxing legend Manny Pacquiao has announced that he will run for president of the Philippines next year, criticizing President Rodrigo Duterte's close relationship with China and government corruption.
After a rival faction in the ruling PDP-Laban Party nominated Duterte loyalist Senator Christopher "Bong" Go as its presidential candidate, Pacquiao, 42, accepted the nomination of his political allies.
Duterte was nominated by his faction to run for vice president, which critics called a cynical move to retain power. Meanwhile, Go declined the nomination for president, but the rift between Pacquiao's and Duterte's factions continued to escalate.
Pacquiao, who is currently a senator, said, in a live-streamed speech, "I am a fighter, and I will always be a fighter inside and outside the ring. I am accepting your nomination as candidate for president of the Republic of the Philippines."
Duterte is prohibited by the country's constitution from running for a second six-year presidential term, but Pacquiao's faction is not supporting his vice-presidential bid.
Despite his popularity, opinion polls place Pacquiao behind front-runners led by Duterte's daughter, Sara Duterte-Carpio.
In July, weeks after challenging Duterte over his stance on China and record on combatting corruption, Pacquiao was voted out as party leader, but his ouster was rejected by his faction.
Pacquiao, once a close ally of Duterte, claimed more than $200 million in pandemic assistance intended for the poor is unaccounted for, adding this was just one discovery by his campaign against corruption, which began as the country's Senate opened an investigation into the alleged overpricing of medical supplies and equipment purchased under the government's pandemic response program.
After being challenged by Duterte to name corrupt government offices, Pacquiao threatened imprisonment for corrupt government officials, stressing, "Your time is up!"