Manny Pacquiao has made it known that he intends to run for Congress in the May elections, representing his hometown of General Santos City in Southern Mindanao. I have a deep affection for the place, my folks having stayed in the Gen-San area for 12 years. I admire Manny as a boxer and a person. He is no doubt popular nationwide, but he stands to be knocked out of the political arena. Here’s why:
1. His opponent is no pushover – Unlike in his fight set for April 14, 2007 in San Antonio, Texas against a rumored Mexican patsy, Jorge Solis, he faces a political heavyweight. The incumbent he seeks to unseat is Rep. Darlene Antonino-Custodio, an opposition stalwart who has performed credibly in Congress. More importantly, the Antonino clan has been a major presence in Gen-San and South Cotabato politics for decades. They have the machinery, the connections, the money and the ruthless will to keep their political dynasty alive and thriving. The Antoninos claim to have the support of Gen-San city mayor Pedro Acharon Jr., the mayors of the towns of Polomolok, Tupi and Tampakan (which is part of the contested district), and the provincial governor, Gov. Daisy Fuentes.
2. Money isn’t everything — Although its a major consideration, funding is not enough to ensure victory, specially against a similarly well-funded opponent. Pacquiao has no clear agenda, relying on motherhood statements like “he just wants to help the poor” (leading wags to say that in that case he should give his money away) or that he “wants to be a unifying presence in national politics”.
3. He has no credibility outside the boxing ring — Pacquiao is not as masterful outside the boxing ring as he is on it. Putting aside his lack of formal education (self-educated men have made good political leaders throughout history), he has shown poor judgment outside the boxing ring. For example, his macho pride refuses to accept that he is a middling pool player and, from reports, is regularly fleeced out of millions in rigged games around the country. This is even more true of his cockfighting sorties. He’s a bad gambler but doesn’t know it, or worse, is in denial. Another clear example is the legal flap caused by his accepting advances and signing two mutually-exclusive promotional contracts with Bob Arum and Oscar Dela Hoya’s Golden Boy Promotions. He appears not to read what he signs and his understanding is limited to what his coterie of advisers say.
4. He is just being used as a political pawn by GMA — Pacquiao is trying to portray himself as a neophyte against a political Goliath, in order to gain sympathy as an underdog. But it is commonly known that he is merely doing the bidding of his patrons, Manila Mayor Lito Atienza and President Arroyo. Malacanang wants to neutralize the Antonino dynasty, and Manny is taking on the role of political hitman.
5. Even if he wins, he loses – Pacquiao, assuming he wins, will face an even tougher time in Congress. The promised support from the Palace may immediately evaporate once the elections are over. GMA is set to be a lame duck as May 2010 nears, and will have her hands full trying to preserve her family’s interests before she officially bows out of politics. Manny will also be facing a task for which he is temperamentally unsuited. Of course, he will have in common with other Congressman the love of cockfighting and late nights out. But the hangover can be a killer. He will be forced to part with his hard-earned money to prop up his political image, despite the presumably ample pork barrel of P60 million annually which can still be curtailed or withheld entirely.
My own grandfather was a Congressman for twenty some years and a provincial governor before that. His house in the province, as well as his place in Manila, was a de facto welfare office, dormitory and occasional watering hole for his constituents. It was a 24/7 job and took a toll on his emotional and physical health. A little more than a year after he retired, he was dead. Things haven’t changed much since my granddad’s time. If anything, it has become worse.
This is one fight Manny should walk away from.
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