PACQUIAO WATCH: Life in a fishbowl (Part 2)

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GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews/27 March) – For the longest time, Manny Pacquiao, the great boxing champion, basked in the glory of his unprecedented and unequalled feats fed largely by the adulating media.

It not only opened up the world for him. It afforded him time to literally walk into the corridors of power having been a regular habitué of Malacañang and a recent White House guest of President Barrack Obama.

His transformation from semi-proletarian to a capitalist came as he stepped up the ladder of success in boxing. Now, he rightly fully belongs to the elite of Philippine society. In fact, Pacquiao is now a member of the bureaucrat capitalist class who is occupying a seat in Philippine congress. (Will the Left agree with my own class analysis of today’s version of Pacquiao?)

Things have taken a dramatic turn in the last two years for Pacquiao, however.

He is now mired and caught in the middle of the contradiction between two factions of his own class.

On the one hand is President Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III and his ilk and, on the other hand, the disgraced clique of former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

Used to be the darling of the presidential palace when Arroyo was at the helm of power, Pacquiao is now an outsider in the power shift even though he is an elected member of the House of Representatives. Once promised by the Aquino government funding for his pet hospital project, Pacquiao faces humiliation from his constituents for failure to deliver his campaign promise as the expected government funding looks like it won’t be coming. His frustration is building up as reality seeps in. While a popular member of the House of Representatives, he is still outside the periphery of the good graces of the party in power. He has not been sworn in as member of the Liberal Party which is headed by Mar Roxas II. One of Roxas’ staff happens to go by the name of Liza Antonino whose sister Darlene Antonino-Custodio was once challenged by Pacquiao when the latter first ran but lost for a seat in Congress in nearby General Santos City.

The hardest cut of them all, he now finds himself being sued by the very government that he is part of, being a member of the legislative branch.

It would have been unthinkable for the Arroyo government to even suggest anything remotely leading to Pacquiao being pursued by the country’s revenue agency. On the contrary, Pacquiao for a while was a pitch guy for the campaign of the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) to convince people to pay their taxes. Sometime ago, he was the biggest individual taxpayer in the country.

Monday, it was his turn to complain that he is being singled out by the Aquino government. He cried “pure and simple harassment” when the BIR filed criminal charges against him for his alleged failure “to
obey summons.”

To a large extent, I would agree with him.

As a popular Filipino political idiom is saying, “Weather weather lang yan.” (Figurative translation: Political fortunes changes with the weather.)

Pacquiao’s popularity can bring him places as it had already brought him to Congress after a failed first attempt. But his interlopers and sycophants may just have pushed the envelope too far when they began to speak of the presidency just months into his election as a representative of the lone district of Sarangani.

It opened the floodgates for his potential rivals to begin tearing him down.

Life, for him from hence, became more than just a fishbowl.

Now, instead of building up a presidential image, Pacquiao is forced to defend himself not only before the bar of justice but also in the bar of public opinion.

He will be closely scrutinized in the same manner that he was unabashedly idolized before. Only this time, he will spend more. His battery of lawyers in Monday’s press conference is making sure of that and is suggesting more troubles ahead.

Pacquiao better be careful.

Although I believe he should be beyond political persecution given the honor he has brought to the country, he nevertheless should accept the fact that by accepting a very public life, he also opened himself up to fair criticism.

At the end of the day, no one is and should be infallible and beyond reproach.

(Edwin G. Espejo writes for www.asiancorrespondent.com.)

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