FIRST, it was to call for the return of the death penalty. Next, it was to agree to have the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos buried as a hero.
In between those two pronouncements on the latest political controversies, Sen. Emmanuel “Manny” Pacquiao announced he will end his retirement and return to the boxing ring on Nov. 5.
Pacquiao has been making his presence felt at the Senate where he is a first-time member after being a congressman for two terms. While at the House of Representatives, he was criticized for being an absentee member who showed up only a few times because he was training for his boxing fights. Maybe, this time, he wants to show he can have an impact on the political discourse. But how he deliberated on the issues and who he consulted about them would be interesting to learn from the first-time senator.
At the Senate, he called for the re-imposition of the death penalty during his first privilege speech last Aug. 8. He said the death penalty is lawful, moral and a legal government action, and went on to quote Bible phrases to support his stand. Drug traffickers, he added, are among those who deserve to die because they promote drugs and are addicted to wealth. He made fun of his preferred type of death penalty, which is by hanging, by saying, “Sisipain lang ang upuan eh.” (You only have to kick the chair in a hanging.) His comment, said in reply to a question by Sen. Vicente Sotto III, elicited laughter from the crowd. Later, Sen. Francis Pangilinan called Pacquiao’s attention and said killing a death convict was no laughing matter.
On Aug. 11, he announced his upcoming fight with Jessie Vargas for the World Boxing Organization welterweight championship. Pacquiao said he would be training in the Philippines and continue with his legislative duties. Then, on Aug. 15, Monday, he made public his thoughts about a hero’s burial for Marcos, in a second round of political pronouncements of late.
Pacquiao said Filipinos could forgive Marcos for his sins and allow his burial at the Libingan ng mga Bayani as ordered by President Rodrigo Duterte. The boxing champion said God is the ultimate judge but people should learn to forgive too so they could move on and just acknowledge the good Marcos had done for the country. Duterte’s decision to allow a hero’s burial for Marcos has been criticized by Marcos’s human rights victims, Church officials, sectoral heads and students. Protesters held rallies in major cities Sunday to air their opposition to Duterte’s decision. They said Marcos was not a hero but a murderer and the one who stole billions of pesos from the country.
Pacquiao probably feels he has to prove his worth as a senator to Filipinos. After being criticized for his House of Representatives absences, this time he wants to have an impact in ongoing political discussions. It’s a good tack. He wants to show he can be a good Senate member by making public his stance on issues.
What would be interesting to find out is the process he took to reach such conclusions. What kind of deliberation or analysis, if any, did he undertake? Who did he talk to for inputs?
Pacquiao enjoys an influence that is unique and far-reaching. His boxing record and rags-to-riches story carry some weight for many Filipinos. He must know, as a senator, his statements on the death penalty, Marcos’s burial, and other issues should be the result of careful deliberation as they can affect others.