MANILA, July 18 (Bloomberg): The Philippines’ ruling party ousted boxer-turned-senator Manny Pacquiao from its leadership, deepening his feud with President Rodrigo Duterte as their plans for the 2022 presidential elections diverge.
Partido Demokratiko Pilipino-Lakas ng Bayan removed Pacquiao as its president on Saturday, ABS-CBN News reported. He was replaced by Energy Secretary Alfonso Cusi.
Pacquiao has emerged as a prospective presidential candidate in Duterte’s party, and an obstacle to the leader’s succession plans after his single six-year term ends.
He ranked fifth in a recent presidential preference poll, where Duterte’s daughter Sara was top choice.
Once a loyal Duterte ally, Pacquiao has recently been criticising the administration for what he describes as its soft stance on China, and for alleged corruption. Duterte hit back by telling the senator to study more foreign policy, and said his corruption allegations are baseless, reports Reuters.
Duterte, who remains chairman, said in a speech to the assembly that the party was as "strong as ever and... united in further consolidating our ranks until the end of my term and beyond".
Duterte said he could run as vice president many times over to avail of immunity from lawsuits by political opponents. Political vendettas are common in the Philippines and former leaders, minus their immunity of office, have been prosecuted and even jailed after changes in power.
Pacquiao said in a statement that the party should focus on preventing the spread of the more contagious Delta coronavirus variant.
The eight-division champion is in the United States to train for a welterweight title match next month and has yet to announce his presidential bid. He took oath as the party's president in December.