CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY (MindaNews/09 May) — The Pacman is a billionaire many times over. And he’s getting wealthier by the day—not just from boxing but from all sorts of lucrative endorsements, sponsorships, and other contracts.
The amounts, rewards, and entitlements he receives are way beyond ordinary Filipinos can dream about. And no one can say he doesn’t deserve them; for indeed he is a gifted pugilist whose ring performance impresses everyone—commoners, royals, and celebrities alike. The stuff of which living legends are made.
So acclaimed is Manny that the nation hails him as a hero: the People’s Champ, Pambansang Kamao (The Nation’s Fist!), such that Sarangani voters have gifted him with the highest honor a community can bestow on one of its own: to represent them and be their lawgiver/lawmaker in Congress.
No other Filipino in the boxing world has attained this stature, nor anyone match his fame or fortune. And he earned these with what seemed an impeccable attitude and behaviour: prayerful, humble, grateful, and respectful even in moments of triumph.
But somehow something is changing. Politics is getting into his head. The thought of becoming a senator next year turns on a twinkle in his eye, plus more twinkles at the thought of a presidency four years down the road!
A little knowledge, they say, can be a dangerous thing. And hubris can bring down a god or a titan! So Manny had better be forewarned…. Fame can be a fickle thing; popular idols can fall from grace.
With the MayPac affair on the sidelines now, he should start making up for lost opportunities in his career. He should start warming his cold, cold seat in Congress.
Manny should start doing his homework, even a little at a time. It can’t be all boxing and basketball playing and coaching, you know. It’s time to get serious. Time for lawmaking, for championing his constituents.
Someone should whisper to him that while philanthropy is great (sharing some of his bounty), indulging in patronage politics is not. He should know by now that playing with politics and politicos instead of working for reforms and good governance isn’t good either.
Manny shouldn’t make the mistake of taking the goodwill and public adulation he enjoys for granted. He owes society. He has public responsibility. His powerful influence on the masses can go a long way to improve their political behavior and sense of public morality. A teaching mission, one might say, a duty to promote the common good.
For the nation, his international renown can do a lot to raise our Republic’s honor, dignity, and credibility. Instead of hiring himself out to China as its boxing consultant—so there will be lots of Communist boxing champions!—he should tell Beijing to back off from the West Philippine Sea. What has he got to lose?
He can as well be our ambassador—self-appointed, if necessary—championing our diplomatic causes, upholding our national sovereignty and security, earning more of our people’s eternal gratitude for doing it.
Instead of just playing basketball, he could be playing diplomat! Surrounding himself with good, knowledgeable advisers, he can go the rounds of South East Asia and urge ASEAN to ratify the Maritime Code of Conduct in the South China Sea that has been long overdue.
The Code won’t put a stop to the skulduggery at the Panatag Shoal and other parts, or solve our problems with Communist Chinese aggression, but a Manny Pacquiao raising the issue would be a powerful megaphone drawing the world’s attention to the utter impropriety or arrogance of a gargantuan power picking on us and our neighbors.
In other words, by rousing international interest and attention to the issue, Manny could be a foil to China’s bullying of our poor and militarily weak Republic. What can China do about it, knock him out?
Not least, he is perfectly within his rights as a Saranggani congressman to demand that China stop stealing from that province’s offshore marine fishery and other resources. Saranggani fishermen are victimized by the thievery!
Not least, someone should whisper to him—as well as to Mommy D and to Madam Jinkee—that it is time for him to stop hanging out with the rough crowd. Hobnobbing with the likes of Jojo Binay and Chavit Singson may make him feel good but it does no good for the fine things they crave for themselves, for their children, and for everyone—like a better quality of life and prosperity.
It’s time to get serious about public service. For the family, the kids are growing up; they need Dad as a role model, and Mom as conscientious public servant, being already a vice governor.
It’s time to improve the quality of the news, too—so that what gets played up aren’t just Manny’s hobbies and vices and antics, Jinkee’s admission of his infidelities, or Mommy D’s boyfriends or dance partner. Better to play up what they, individually and as a family, do for society, nation, and posterity.
(Manny is former UNESCO regional director for Asia-Pacific; secretary-general, Southeast Asia Publishers Association; director, development academy of Philippines; member, Philippine Mission to the UN; vice chair, Local Government Academy; member, Cory Govt’s Peace Panel; awardee, PPI-UNICEF outstanding columnist. Author of books on governance, he is chairman/convenor of the Gising Barangay Movement Inc. firstname.lastname@example.org)