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Manny Pacquiao wins seat in Philippine Senate

Manny Pacquiao
Manny Pacquiao

Boxing great Manny Pacquiao has won a seat in the Philippine Senate, bringing him closer to a possible shot at the presidency.

At the proclamation ceremony, an election official introduced Pacquiao as the "people's champion" and called out his name in the same way he is introduced in the boxing ring.

The 37-year-old Filipino received more than 16 million votes for seventh place among 12 winning senators in the recent elections. Earlier this year, he said he planned to retire from boxing to become a full-time politician.

Pacquiao is considered a hero in his country which grinds to a halt during his televised fights so Filipinos can support him. He has indicated in the past he would consider running for the presidency but he has tried to ditch the topic, saying he was too young.

He told reporters he was still thinking about whether to participate in the Olympic Games in August because he might be criticised for being absent from the Senate shortly after the start of legislative work.

"I need to ask if the Filipino people will allow me to participate in the Olympics," he added.

Pacquiao also said he will support re-imposing the death penalty but opposes any proposed divorce bill. He said the first bill he will file would provide free elementary-to-college education for children from impoverished families.

Pacquiao ran for the Senate under the ticket of losing presidential candidate Jejomar Binay, but was also endorsed by southern Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte, the winner of the presidential race according to unofficial results. Mr Duterte has said he would ask Congress to restore the death penalty, which has been suspended since 2006.

During his senatorial campaign, Pacquiao bounced back impressively after a huge drop in support from his remarks in February that people in same-sex relations are "worse than animals". The Bible-quoting candidate apologised to people hurt by his comments but made clear he opposed same-sex marriage.

President Benigno Aquino III revealed in April that the brutal Abu Sayyaf militant group considered abducting Pacquiao, along with the president's sister, who is a wealthy and popular actress. Despite the warning, Pacquiao continued to openly campaign with few visible escorts in the south region where the militants are based.

Pacquiao came from an impoverished family and had worked odd jobs before lacing up the gloves at the age of 12. He rose steadily and became a champion in eight boxing divisions then one of the world's most celebrated and wealthiest athletes.

He has represented southern Sarangani province in the House of Representatives since May 2010, though he has been criticised for rarely showing up for legislative duties due to his commitments with boxing and training.