By JOHN CARLO M. CAHINHINAN
CITY OF SAN JOSE DEL MONTE, Bulacan – People’s champ Sen. Manny Pacquiao threw his all-out support to the senatorial bid of former Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) chair Francis Tolentino.
During Thursday’s kick-off for the five-man senatorial slate of the ruling administration party, Partido Demokratiko Pilipino – Lakas ng Bayan (PDP Laban), Pacquiao not only endorsed Tolentino but also relieved the kindness and hospitality the former Tagaytay City mayor did to him when he was just a rising prospect in the professional boxing circuit.
According to Pacquiao, Tolentino in 1999 was the first government official who recognized his achievement in the sport after the General Santos City native destroyed Thai boxing legend Chatchai “Dutchboy” Sasakul in eight rounds and claimed the world flyweight title belt (112 pounds).
“Noong ako manalo po ng championship belt, first time. Ang una sakin nag bigay ng parangal, si Tolentino, yung mayor sa Tagaytay,” said Pacquiao.
“Francis Tolentino, siya po ang unang nagbigay sakin ng award nung ako nag champion, nag-uumpisa pa lang ako,” Pacquiao added.
Pacquiao who was named overall campaign manager of the ruling party last month stressed that even before some prominent politicians like former Ilocos Sur Gov. Luis “Chavit” Singson and former Manila Mayor Lito Atienza became his diehard supporters, Tolentino was already on his side.
“Talagang malaki po ang aking pasasalamat sa kanyang pamilya at sa kanya dahil grabe po ang suporta nila pag dating sa career ko sa boksing,” said Pacquiao.
For his part, Tolentino was delighted by the kind words expressed by the reigning world welterweight champion, adding that the boxer-turned-politician ‘remained down to earth’ even though he already became a billion due to his colorful boxing career.
According to Tolentino, the then 20-year old Pacquiao was only driving a second hand Nissan Sentra sedan when he first met him.