PACQUIAO WATCH: The gladiator who now roams free

GENERAL SANTOS CITY(MindaNews/ 5 October) –A very close apolitical confidante of Rep. Manny Pacquiao said it was always the obsession of the eight-division world boxing champion to join politics long before he even ever thought of becoming the top pound-for-pound boxing king.

“Basta mag-mayor gyud ko sa Gensan (Mark it, I will become mayor of Gensan),” that friend quoted Pacquiao way back in 1998 when very few gave Manny a second look as a gangling and wild-swinging reed thin boxer.  That year, he won the first of his eight division boxing crown as a 20 year old flyweight, two weeks shy of his 21st birthday.

Something, however, happened along the way to living his dream of becoming the mayor of General Santos.

He conquered the world of boxing.  Boxing conquered him.

And like victorious generals returning from the war fronts, he was feted not with ivy-leaf crown but with a walk along the corridors of power, both literally and figuratively.  Not just once but every time he returns from each conquest. Sometimes even in gallant defeats.

Cesar and the senators of Rome feasted on his growing legend.

In turn, Pacquiao basked in the glory of his victories.

He rose from the caged gladiator to become a free man but continued to fight for the glory and riches of it.

He soon would find that his popularity can be translated into political bonanzas.  Not long after, he would hobnob and rubbed elbows with the mighty and the powerful.

He, consciously or unconsciously, allowed himself to become a calming figure against growing discontent for the former president that laid the red carpet for him in Malacañang, the Philippine’s presidential palace.

When you have a direct line and you can call the president anytime you wish, you know that you have arrived as a political force.

That is when politics finally beckoned for him.

He thought of running and getting the mandate of the people as his ticket to becoming a powerful political figure like the many that now surrounds him.  Pacquiao, however, would lose in his first foray into politics.

He licked his wounds but came back with a vengeance and became a congressman in nearby Sarangani.
After he won, he can no longer hold back the hands of time.  His sister in law Lorelei, wife of brother Bobby, ran for village chief of Labangal in General Santos City and won in 2010 with his blessings and support.  His brother Rogelio (Roel) was likewise voted village chief in the same year and almost won the presidency of the Association of Barangay Chair (ABC) that would have elevated him into an ex officio member of the city council of General Santos City.

With a seemingly bottomless war chest after almost emptying his lifelong savings and mortgaging his future in two consecutive elections, Pacquiao has become an even more powerful political figure.  Former nemesis but now Vice President Jejomar Binay would become an accommodating ally even though Pacquiao once endorsed Lito Lapid against the former Makati mayor in the 2007 elections.

Pacquiao is riding the crest of his fame and has set sights on higher goals.

But first, he would like Roel to follow his footsteps and is bankrolling his favorite brother’s quest to land the position he lost to Darlene Antonino-Custodio in 2007.  If Roel wins, the two could be seatmates in the House of Representatives.

He is now assured wife Jinkee will also win as vice governor in Sarangani, in building up his own version of political dynasty in Socsargen area.

And if luck and fate would have it, he may one day become the first senator to come from this part of the world.   And who knows even be a president one day, a thought that has obviously tickled him the most.

So for those who are wondering why Manny is so obsessed with power, the political kind of it, they have to understand the dirt-poor kid who stowed away to overcome poverty, depravation and anonymity.

Manny boxed his way to fame.  He paid his way into politics.  When the day comes, he may choose to run for mayor in Gensan to come full circle and fulfill that promise. (Edwin G. Espejo writes for