Manny Pacquiao’s bid to become congressman of his home province of South Cotabato in Mindanao is nearing the homestretch and the final rounds are about to be played out. D-day is May 14, 2007 and the outcome is far from certain. He faces U.S.-born Darlene Antonino, a two-term congresswoman who, at first glance, appears to be just as unsuited for the Philippine Congress as the world-famous boxer. Antonino is a chef with a Masters in Culinary Arts from The Cordon Bleu in London. But she is heir to a well-oiled political machine which, in the Philippines, is all that counts. Her family has been prominent in South Cotabato politics for over four decades.
It doesn’t help Manny that Antonino is media-savvy and has gained a reputation as a staunch critic of the increasingly unpopular President Gloria Arroyo. In contrast, Pacquiao is perceived to be a pawn of Arroyo and her political handlers and was encouraged to run order to provide enough distraction for Antonino et. al. in that part of the country.
Manny has been dodging and weaving throughout the campaign, refusing to meet Antonino head-on in a public political debate and relying on motherhood statements to explain his political platform. Now he says his life is in danger and points to the Antonino camp as the source of recent death threats. Antonino says he’s just paranoid. But even paranoids have real enemies and in Mindanao life can be cheap, specially during election time. So Manny is not taking any chances and is moving around under heavy security. In Manny’s words: “Don’t give your life a chance to die”. Good advice from a battle-tested warrior.