Retired boxing star Manny Pacquiao filed his certificate of candidacy for the Philippine presidency on Friday as registration opened for the country's May 2022 election.
About 3,000 police officers, including some patrolling in armoured police vans, were on duty around the seaside convention complex in Manila where presidential candidates were expected to register until October 8. The area was declared a no-fly and no-fishing zone.
Aspirants can bring a maximum of only three companions – who were required to undergo Covid-19 swab tests – when registering their candidacies. The restriction is to prevent a repeat of the chaotic scenes of the past when candidates showed up with movie stars, musical bands and rowdy mobs of followers in tow.
“We really went to great extent to make sure that the filing would be sober,” Commission on Elections spokesman James Jimenez said.
Still, hundreds of fans and supporters in face masks and holding Mr Pacquiao’s portrait and small Philippine flags lined the street leading to the heavily secured elections registration centre by Manila Bay to cheer his convoy.
Mr Pacquiao, one of the greatest boxers of all time and the only man to hold world titles in eight different divisions, announced his retirement from boxing on Wednesday to focus on the run for the presidency. He has served two terms in the Philippine congress and currently serves as a senator.
He was joined by his wife and running mate, house deputy speaker Lito Atienza, to submit his certificate of candidacy.
A former ally of current president Rodrigo Duterte, the 42-year old split from the controversial leader after claiming corruption had become worse under Mr Duterte's watch.
Mr Duterte, 76, has accepted the ruling party’s nomination for him to run as vice president in a move that caused a constitutional debate and shocked opponents who have long condemned him as a human rights calamity.
“Those who take advantage of the nation, stealing, robbing the Filipino nation, your happy days of taking advantage in the government are already numbered because if the Lord places me there, I promise not only to the Filipino people, but also my promise to God, that they all will be put in prison,” Mr Pacquiao said after registering his candidacy.
More than 18,000 national, local and congressional posts will be contested in the May 9 elections. Mr Pacquiao will face off against former national police chief Panfilo Lacson, Manila Mayor Isko Moreno and others.
Mr Pacquiao said he was unperturbed by the results of an opinion poll showing him in fourth spot among preferred presidential contenders, saying: "The voices of the poor have not been heard."