PACQUIAO WATCH: Learning the hard way

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GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews/7 April) – Off-and-on Rep. Manny Pacquiao critic Ronnie Nathanielz said the eight-division world boxing champion is overhauling his foundation and is bringing on board renowned personalities to straighten things out after the Manny Pacquiao Foundation was sued for its reported failure to pay shipping and other charges for imported “relief goods” intended for flood victims in 2009.

Philippine authorities seized the “relief goods” when they turned out to be “used clothing,” a violation of existing laws in the country.

We used to share the same building with his foundation when I was still with Sun.Star General Santos (now defunct). It was in his office when I first interviewed Pacquiao. The foundation, then, was largely skeletal. The office almost closed all the time except when Manny drops by which is far in between. That was sometime in 2003 or a year thereafter.

My understanding is that some enterprising people used the name of the foundation and tried to bring in valuable “used clothing” sans the knowledge and consent of Pacquiao.

Time and again I have always said some people around the boxing champion will always find ways to earn fast money at the expense of Pacquiao. Pacquiao himself admitted that some of his friends have stolen money from him. One of them reportedly was the wife of a trusted aide who forged his signature en route to withdrawing Manny’s hard earned savings in the United States (my source said it was Manny’s Wells Fargo account that was fleeced). Pacquiao declined to cite the figure when interviewed by ANC’s Karen Davila but my same source said the fleeced amount totaled almost US$200,000 or thereabouts (at US$1-P55 exchange rate at that time).

On Maundy Thursday, I bumped into one of the lawyers of Pacquiao who confided to me some disturbing information leading to his filing a complaint for libel against me. It seems some people whispered to Pacquiao that I am a paid hack of the Antoninos of General Santos City in addition to me being close to Sarangani Gov. Miguel Rene Dominguez.

I will not deny my friendship with Dominguez, whom I knew way back in 2001. The guy (I used to call him a kid) simply walked into the bar where I was seated alone and introduced his self. Who is the person in his right mind who will not accept an offer of friendship under such circumstances? That episode started my friendship with Dominguez only to find out that he sat as a member of the board of directors of Sun.Star representing his family’s interest in the Garcia-controlled Davao group of Sun.Star Publications Inc. Technically, I was his employee then. When Dominguez ran for governor in 2004, his campaign people tried to convince me to join their media group which I politely declined. I again turned them down in 2007 when I was no longer with Sun.Star. They never bother asked me again in 2010.

The question is: Did I allow my friendship with Dominguez to become a platform against Pacquiao? My body of works will speak for itself. I have written over 400 news, features and commentaries on Pacquiao, many of them when it was not yet fashionable to write about him.

Now, Pacquiao and Dominguez are politically in the same page, agreeing in June last year to swap places and joining forces.

Trouble is, there are some forces within Pacquiao’s camp who do not wish this alliance to push through, which would make both of them unbeatable and perhaps unchallenged and uncontested. With no credible opponent, who needs to shell out another P400 million (or P500 million combined) to win?

Back to that Antonino paid hack allegation. Did these people around Pacquiao know that at one time, I was also accused by the camp of Pacquiao’s nemesis as the champion’s publicist? When Pacquiao first ran for office against then re-electionist Rep. Darlene Antonino-Custodio (now the mayor of General Santos), I was one of the few who openly supported Pacquiao’s right to be voted upon, regardless of his educational background or lack of it. But I also then said he is not cut for a congressman’s job. That Pacquiao is better off in an executive office. And I am blessed to be vindicated as Pacquiao had already declared he will run for governor in Sarangani next year.

Now, Pacquiao is learning life’s many lessons the hard way and at literally steep prices and at the expense of others.

Pacquiao is still young (young enough to be my son). He is still learning the ropes of politics. But no need for costly lessons.

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

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