CAGAYAN DE ORO

Sia: The strange case of Senator Pacquiao

AS FAR as Philippine politics is concerned, social media has been proven to be a both a boon and a bane. On one hand, it is a boon because national politics is no longer just an “Imperial Manila” thing. No matter where they are in the country or in the world, citizens from all walks of life can now keep abreast of the latest developments and have a say that’ s more or less heard. On the other hand, it is a bane, because when it comes to taking sides, people have become more divided than ever before.

One of my childhood friends who is now an expat can attest to this. He tells me that he got caught up in an argument with some very outspoken buddies from college who flaunt their poor opinion of Senator Manny Pacquiao like a badge of honor at every opportunity. He had me browse through their arguments, and the gist of all they’ve said is that Pacquiao is “stupid” and “incompetent” and therefore unfit for public office. As someone who voted for the boxer-turned-politician, he asked if I could come up with a counter-argument that’s sure to blow their minds.

I apologized and told him that I really can’t help him there, as there’s simply no defending the fact that Pacquiao has a propensity for missing sessions and hearings that required not just his attendance, but his participation as a lawmaker and duly-elected representative of the people. His excuse? He needs to train hard for his upcoming bouts abroad, because winning his matches should be more than service enough for the Philippine nation.

Then why become a politician in the first place? By all accounts, Pacquiao is the least qualified to serve in such a consequential capacity – or at least as qualified as fellow celebs like Lito Lapid, Tito Sotto, Jinggoy Estrada, and Bong Revilla Jr., which still isn’ t saying much when it comes to political credentials. Adel Tamano, also a Mindanaoan but with a solid background in law and politics, would have been more suited to serve as the once-in-a-blue-moon Senator from the South.

I’m not sure if Pacquiao knows this, but it wasn’t just the masses who voted for him; a sizable minority in the country’s “thinking class” marked him as their choice on the ballot too. Not because they were big fans who wanted to see him become a senator, but because they wanted to vote against the crooked politicians who otherwise would’ve taken his senatorial seat. It might be argued that in voting for Pacquiao, the heretics of the thinking class also unwittingly denied a better man or woman the chance to serve the country as senator, but considering what Pacquiao’ s rivals are actually like, perhaps having someone like him occupying a seat in the Senate can’ t be all that bad.

My expat friend was also quick to point out that during two major calamities in the past decade – Sendong and Yolanda – Pacquiao gave generously to victims while his fellow politicians both local and national were only eager to pose for the cameras to give the impression that they were greatly concerned, while secretly helping themselves to the billions in aid given in good faith by kind-hearted donors from all over the world.

Good as his intentions may be, if Pacquiao really wanted to serve the Philippines while doing justice to himself as an athletic great, he could’ve just focused on boxing and boxing alone. Had he done so, he could have mustered enough oomph to land the one blow that would’ve knocked Floyd Mayweather Jr. out cold, effectively ending his spotless boxing record. Of course, just boxing is bound to get boring after a while, so if he wanted to venture into mixed martial arts that would’ve been awesome, too. And because he’s a fighter, he could’ve done something to promote our very own homegrown arnis instead of that utterly foreign sport that to this day has many in this country haplessly spellbound – namely, basketball.

But as we all know, Pacquiao isn’t just a sportsman; he’s an actor and a singer, too. Since it was inevitable that he’ d go down a showbiz-bound trajectory, he could’ve taken a page from Hong Kong’s Donnie Yen and become our man in Hollywood. Yen, famous for his on-screen and off-screen martial arts prowess, did just that and landed a starring role in the movie Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. Had Pacquiao done that, it wouldn’ t be a long stretch to say that talent agents would soon be scouring these islands for the next Filipino action hero to join the likes of Dan Inosanto and Mark Dacascos.

Sadly, Pacquaio already made his choice a long time ago, so the things I just described in my reverie will remain only a dream. No disrespect to Senator Pacquiao, but this coming election here’s hoping we can do better than just voting for the lesser evil.


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