Philippine boxing champ Manny Pacquiao indicated Monday that he will jail his own political allies if he’s elected president.
Pacquiao, 41, has been building a national profile as an advocate for rural education and the poor, and as the front-runner in the Philippines’ 2019 presidential election. If elected, he’d be the country’s first religious to hold the office.
But former allies now are making it difficult for him to succeed in the election. The former Filipino boxing champion said he wouldn’t allow any of his political supporters in the Philippines’ Senate — which he’s currently a senator — to support him for president if he wins in April.
“If you have been with me all these years, are you going to stop supporting me?” he asked on his Instagram account Monday, according to CNN Philippines. “It’s not possible. It will be a very difficult decision.”
Analysts predicted Pacquiao — whose popularity may be stalled by an opponent who dropped out of the race after the withdrawal of boxing rival Jeff Horn in Australia — will narrowly defeat pro-business candidate Pia Blanco in the race to replace President Rodrigo Duterte.
Some Pacquiao supporters have warned against becoming a senator, warning that people with poor intelligence will end up ruling the Philippines.
“You are stupid to become a senator,” Jeff Crisostomo, a former special-forces commander and supporter of Pacquiao, warned last week, the AFP reported. “After, you will help the homeless in Manila. That is not important, because if you are elected senator, you will be on top of your game because if you need anything, you’ll go to the right people, otherwise you will be stuck behind desks and won’t do anything.”
Pacquiao has faced criticism in the past for making homophobic remarks and outraging his countrymen for making comparison between Hitler and U.S. President Donald Trump.