CNN  — 

Former boxing champion turned senator, Manny Pacquiao says he will seek corruption charges against some of his former political allies within the Duterte government if he wins the Philippine presidential election next year.

Speaking to CNN in an interview on November 11, the presidential candidate said he planned to investigate some members of President Rodrigo Duterte’s outgoing administration.

“All those corrupt officials should be jailed,” he said. “That’s the only way that we can have economic growth in our country, because that’s the cancer of this country, the hindrance of development.”

Pacquiao hopes to succeed Duterte when the Philippines goes to the polls on May 9, 2022, with official campaigning not scheduled to start until February.

But the race is already heating up.

One of the frontrunners is Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. – the 64-year-old controversial son and namesake of the late dictator accused of stealing billions from the country during a two-and-a-half-decade reign during which thousands of people were imprisoned and tortured.

Some experts estimate the Marcos family amassed more than $10 billion during the dictatorship. Marcos Jr. has claimed many of the allegations against his family are slanderous.

Pacquiao’s agenda includes trying to recoup some of the “stolen wealth” from the Marcos family, who were exiled for more than five years following a 1986 revolution.

“I am not scared,” Pacquiao said. “This is my fight to give development to our country, to jail those who are continuously stealing the Philippines of its wealth. I want them jailed.”

Philippine senator and  boxing icon Manny Pacquiao arrives at Sofitel Hotel to file his certificate of candidacy for President, in Pasay City, Metro Manila, on October 1, 2021.

A wide open field

Weeks of speculation ended on Tuesday when Marcos Jr. and Duterte’s eldest daughter, Sara Duterte-Carpio, confirmed they will be running mates in the election.

Duterte-Carpio, 43, will stand for vice president – elected separately from the President – on the same ticket as Marcos Jr., cementing an alliance between the two powerful families.

Among the other main candidates for the top job are Duterte’s longtime aide, Sen. Christopher “Bong” Go; incumbent vice president and Duterte critic Leni Robredo; and Manila Mayor Isko Moreno, a former actor.

According to Richard Heydarian, associate professor in politics at Polytechnic University of the Philippines, dynasties and celebrities have dominated the country’s politics since the fall of the Marcos dictatorship.

“For a while, the celebrities presented themselves as kind of a self-made alternatives to political dynasties,” he said. “Nonetheless, just because you’re a celebrity doesn’t mean you’re going to win.”

But Pacquiao has a fighting chance.

The wide field of candidates, combined with the Philippines’ first-past-the-post electoral system could work to the former boxer’s advantage, Heydarian said.

“Let’s not forget, in the Philippines, we have no run-off elections,” he said. “All you have to do to become the President is to win more votes than everyone else.”

In 2016, Duterte did just that – winning the presidency with just over 39% of the vote.

Despite criticism that he prioritized his boxing career over his congressional role, Pacquiao’s political star has risen over the past five years under Duterte’s rule.

But relations between the two men have faltered in recent months.

Signs of a rift in the ruling PDP-Laban party beg