RATHER than spending in the past few months an alleged P50 million for PR people and political operators to push his bid for the presidency (or the vice presidency), legendary boxing champion Manny Pacquiao should instead have used that money to finance the purchase of vaccines that the nation urgently needs to end this scourge, and become a national hero of our time.
I am not talking about the whole nation. He could just choose where he was born, Bukidnon, or where he grew up, Sarangani, as his “target” for getting as many of its adult population as possible vaccinated. With government finances stretched to its limit after a year and a half of addressing the pandemic, I’m sure the Duterte government can come up with an arrangement for using Pacquiao’s money to buy more vaccines and get these into the arms of Filipinos.
And why am I picking on Pacquiao to do this? Well, firstly, he has portrayed himself as not just a prizefighter, but one who wants to serve the people. He certainly has the capacity to do so, being the world’s richest boxer (after Floyd Mayweather and George Foreman) with a net worth of P10 billion.
And secondly, I was shocked by reports — unverified of course unless Pacquiao himself confirms it — in the past two months, he has spent (wasted I think) P50 million to contract PR and political operators as well as get the purported support of some politicians, to launch his bid for the presidency, or to get Duterte to choose him as a candidate for that post or the vice presidency.
If he had used this P50 million to help the government buy vaccines, he could have demonstrated he is sincere about serving the people, especially at this time of one of the country’s worst crises. He could even use his prestige in America – where he is said to be loved more than the American, the arrogant Mayweather – to get US vaccine makers to sell vaccines to him. He could even package his scheduled fight with Errol Spence Jr. in August, as one whose proceeds he would donate to buy vaccines — Pacquiao’s “jab for jabs.”
This is crazy. Pacquiao’s winning a Senate seat is already a spectacular accomplishment for a dirt-poor boy from a poor town in Mindanao who defied all odds to become one of the world’s best boxers of all time. For him to think he can be president or vice president is, sorry to say, deranged.
It never crossed the minds of national sports heroes elsewhere, for instance in the US, LeBron James, Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson, or even Tiger Woods, or in Latin America, football gods Diego Maradona and Pele, to run for public office.
Or, is Pacquiao drawing inspiration from the only sports hero who became president: George Weah, a football star who played in European teams and after retirement returned to his country to become, like Pacquiao, a senator, and then run for and win the presidency in 2018. Weah is president of Liberia, a poor West African country wracked by civil war.
I should think our politics and culture are far more advanced than Liberia’s. Pacquiao doesn’t have a chance of winning. But a report in April San Miguel magnate Ramon Ang was endorsing Pacquiao’s presidential bid (which the tycoon however denied) makes me a bit worried, not that he could win such a fight but he could generate substantial support that could mess things up.
That Pacquiao could even think of running for the presidency and for Ang to even tell reporters he has a “good chance” (which the magnate explained was what he said, but was twisted by media as an endorsement of the boxer) is due to the fact there are three curses on our electoral system that continues to make our democracy a farce more often than not.
First is the curse of celebrity power. Nobody could have predicted in a modern democracy the masses would vote somebody to office merely because he is a “celebrity,” by which I mean a person known to most people because of such modern inventions as movies, television, media-covered sports, and other unique circumstances.
We have had two presidents whose election owed much to their celebrity status, President Estrada since he had been one of the most popular action stars ever and Benigno Aquino 3rd, voted not because of his capabilities but because of his well-known parents. We have had two candidates for the presidency who nearly won because of their celebrity status: Grace Poe, the balikbayan whose father FPJ’s fame rubbed off on her and Mar Roxas, of the well-known political and economic clan.
Pacquiao and his supporters obviously think his celebrity power as a world-famous boxing champion could bring him to Malacañang.
Second is the curse of money, the necessary requirement for winning the presidency. We have no checks, as there are in the US where there are campaign-financing laws, to mitigate the role of magnates and companies in funding a candidate.
Pacquiao doesn’t need donors though, as he has money of his own, if he chooses to spend it all. Prize fights had never been as lucrative thanks to TV rights, pay TV, and internet streaming. Pacquiao seems to be bent on raising more funds, with his August fight with welterweight titlist Spence, by which he could raise at least P500 million.
Third is the curse of the opportunism of our political and business elite. Nobody in the Liberal Party ever thought Benigno Aquino 3rd had the qualifications to be president. The Liberal Party however made him its presidential candidate only because it calculated with his mother’s death in August 2009, he could ride on Filipinos’ sense of sympathy for her and on their superstition Cory’s spirit lives on in him.
The anti-Duterte political and business elite, and more importantly the Yellow tycoons – the Lopezes, the Aranetas, the Ayalas, members of the so-called Makati Business Club, the Negros agribusinesses – would just close their eyes and back Pacquiao’s ambition if that’s what it would take to end a Duterte presidency.
And of course, the Americans might even decide to support Pacquiao, in order to prevent a second Duterte administration that had ended the Philippines’ seven decades of vassalage to it.
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