GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews/30 January) – Rep. Manny Pacquiao is professing he is now a changed man.
Of course he is. From the dirt poor kid to the mega millionaire celebrity who can shell out US$ 500,000 for a private yacht without batting his eyelashes, he is indeed a changed man.
But that is obviously not what he meant when he publicly announced and even confessed to wife Jinky that he had been bad. Delivered with a devilish smile which drew catcalls and laughter, Pacquiao was game enough to reciprocate the appreciating audience with his signature innocent wide grin in a recent event where he received yet another award from yet another entity.
Some quarters are however confiding that these recent public confessions were triggered by serious marital problems very well known to his close circle of friends. Only, none of them are talking.
Pacquiao has recently turned to the Bible and has been lifting passages with the help of a charismatic Protestant group although he is an avowed Catholic.
Lover of life in the fast lane when not in training, Pacquiao is said to have given up gambling and womanizing if he is to be believed.
Any of these vices is a hard habit to break, however.
Until he stops going to the casinos, ceases to call friends for late night high-stakes card games and slaughters all feathered fighters in his cock farm (not just turning them over to whoever he fancies), Pacquiao will always be within temptations’ reach.
We are not even talking about women who gravitate towards him by reason of his celebrity status and wealth.
In private also, Pacquiao is known to be intolerant to public scrutiny.
He filed a libel case against a sports scribe who reported his heavy gambling just when his popularity was soaring. Before that, he also threatened to sue several local reporters in General Santos for the stories that showed early on his penchant for women. His uncle-in-law prosecutor however prevailed over his plans.
Last week, Pacquiao reportedly had a complaint subscribed before a prosecutor that can only be viewed as a prelude to filing another libel case against a correspondent of a widely circulated national broadsheet.
Pacquiao was said to have been offended by the columns written by the journalist for a local newspaper.
The good congressman from the lone district of Sarangani should better read a recent report from the UN Commission on Human Rights calling for the decriminalization of libel in the Philippines, one of the few remaining countries in Asia still implementing the draconian law.
The UN Human Rights Committee sees the country’s dated and draconian criminal libel law as “incompatible with Article 19, paragraph three of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights,” or freedom of expression.
Pacquiao, good or bad, is always a good copy for journalists. He can always defend himself against any public scrutiny that does not go his way with his stable of media friends.
Of course, filing a libel case is one’s basic right to redress of grievance.
But he should first work for its decriminalization.
Nobody should be imprisoned for expressing views and opinions against a public figure. More so against a public official.
If Pacquiao is indeed a changed man, he should reach out and be magnanimous instead.
He should expand his professed reformed values to include his ability to appreciate what others will have to say or are saying about him – good or bad. (Edwin G. Espejo writes for www.asiancorrespondent.com)