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COMMENT: Manny, Mandate Matters

GENERAL SANTOS CITY, July 18, 2016 – The Philippine Star, July 13 and Philippine Daily Inquirer, July 14 reported that Emmanuel “Manny” Pacquiao, now in his first term as “Senator Pacquiao” – the only one among all the living or dead boxers to win eight division world titles – is planning to seek a leave from the Senate to train for his next fight. Pacquiao denied the plan in the same papers’ reports later on July 14 but he talked of the possibility.

The Inquirer report has 33 comments from the netizens; the Star report, 22. All the 55 comments were insulting, demeaning, disgraceful, etcetera. For instance, he was asked to resign; ridiculed for his greed of money, title and fame; etcetera, including invectives subtly said. His honor – senators are addressed “honorable” — was being questioned.

Most critical to his honor was the reminder of the 16 million votes he got, although least qualified – ranking 7th, 1.9 million ahead of former Justice Secretary Leila de Lima, the 12th placer. He was seven ranks ahead of Sen. Sergio Osmena III and ten ahead of Sen. Teofisto Guingona III, who both failed to be reelected.

Mandate Trivialized

By his election, Mr. Pacquiao has the mandate for him to honor. Is he ignorant of his mandate or is he ignoring it? By the news reports, he is trivializing it. He texted Manila media stating that should he fight it would be timed for the recess of the Congress; he does not have to take a leave. He will train in the Philippines so that he can attend the Senate sessions.

Attending sessions is only a part of the mandate of any legislator — a senator or a House representative. The whole mandate is law-making which demands (1) a study of pending bills and (2) actively participating in the deliberation of bills during sessions. These are full day’s work during regular sessions. During recess, (3) legislators visit their districts or travel in aid of legislation. A part of law-making, (4) is the study of existing laws for possible amendments, revisions or even repeal. Law-making is a full-term mandate.

During his two-term, 2010 to 2016 stint as lone representative of Sarangani province, Mr. Pacquiao utterly ignored and dishonored his mandate, granting that he knew it. He was paid just to train for his fights twice a year and to engage in lucrative sidelines as PBA basketball playing-coach and commercial product endorser. In his six-year stint in the House, he had no law passed; he was the No. 1 absentee from the sessions – in his last year, six registered attendance.

Is he going to repeat this in the Senate? To a 290-member House of Representatives his impotency and absence did not matter; but it must to the 24-member Senate.

His Real Mind and Interest

After winning his last fight last year, he announced his retirement from boxing in order, to devote all his time to his political career – as senator, he said, should he win in the May 2016 election. He did win — but now this report of his coming out of retirement!

One of the 55 comments said Pacquiao is only interested in the title “Senator”, not in being a senator. The same can be said of him as a two-termer congressman. He revealed his real mind and interest while denying the Inquirer and Star reports.

Agence France-Presse (Inquirer, July 14:‘Passion’ for boxing fuels Pacquiao as he eyes comeback) summed up pointedly its interview with Pacquiao in General Santos City, July 13, thus: “Filipino boxing hero Manny Pacquiao [1] has declared he still has the passion for the sport and [2] may come out of retirement, although [3] there are no plans for a fight this year.” (Numbers inserted ours).

He equivocated: “… his top priority was his political career but that his love for boxing had not diminished.”

Of his “top priority”, Pacquiao emphasized to AFP his commitment to his duties as a senator, adding, “What is on my mind right now is to bring good service to the people”.

Of his “love for boxing”, he was passionately demonstrative. AFP quoted him: “Boxing is always my passion and I grew up (as a boxer). The Lord helped me (make) a name in boxing history. … I am still strong. I am still young.”

Reiteration, Equivocation, Denial

The Philippine Star (July 14: Pacquiao: No plans to take Senate leave), with reference to Pacquiao’s official statement e-mailed to the press, said “Manny Pacquaio … yesterday denied that he’s seeking a leave of absence from the Senate so he could fight again this year … however, did not close the door on his return to boxing … did not say when he’s returning to the ring.”

Pacquiao reiterated in his e-mailed statements much of his AFP interview and elucidated his equivocation.

Of boxing and politics: “When I ran for senator, I made a promise to be present in all sessions. I owe it to the people. (But) Boxing is my only means of livelihood to support my family and to help those who are in need. Politics, to me, is a vocation (and) not a means to eke out a living. … I want to maintain that belief. I want to keep my dignity intact while in public service.”

Of the possibility of his next fight : “Hindi pa sa October (Not yet in October). …I want to make it clear – my priority is my legislative works. My next fight has not been discussed. Should there be any, I’ll make sure it will not interfere with my Senate duties. …If I ever decide to fight again, rest assured, it will happen when Congress is on recess so there’s no need for me to go on leave. The entire training will be done in the Philippines to ensure I can attend sessions even while on training camp.”

Significantly, the Star noted the longest period that the Senate goes on a break is from December to January. In all Pacquiao’s previous fights, it took more than one month for him to train.

Pacquiao denied his having plans to return to the ring this year and, as implied, his having discussed his plans with his promoter Bob Arum. Did he or not?

In the Inquirer report, Arum, as quoted, specifically told the Associated Press and AFP that (1) the plan was to hold the fight on October 15; but (2) the Senate told Pacquiao that he was free to fight after the country’s budget is settled on Oct. 15; so (3) it will be held on Nov. 5, likely in Las Vegas; and, (4) he would train in the Philippines and leave on the 16th to come to the US, train for two weeks and then come to Vegas.

Arum also told AP and AFP that he had reserved Mandalay Bay arena for October 15; however, he had it cancelled when Pacquaio could not leave his Senate duties that early. The November 5 fight could be at University of Nevada Las Vegas campus arena.

Would Arum have made arrangement for the fight in Las Vegas on October 15 and have revealed to AP and AFP this and the plan had he not had a previous discussion with Pacquiao?

What Matters

What do the AFP and AP reports and Pacquiao’s e-mailed statement to the Manila press as published by the Inquirer and the Star reveal about Pacquiao?

First, he equivocates to hide his insincerity. He must be aware of the academic and experiential qualifications required of a legislator. Despite his inadequacies, he used his popularity and money to get elected then as House representative and now was senator.

He loved the title “congressman” but shunned his mandate for being one. That explains his almost zero attendance at the plenary sessions and his zero performance. He loves his new title “senator” but not the mandate for being one; so his imminent return to the ring despite his denial.

Second, he is dishonest with himself. If he honestly thinks that the money to support his family and help those who are in need is only in boxing, he should resign from the Senate and continue his boxing profession. To quote him, “I am still strong. I am still young.” If there’s no money in politics, how can he as a senator “bring good service to the people”?

If he establishes a foundation for charity and puts into it all his future prize money, he can really bring good service to the people. Is he willing to do this?

As a congressman since 2010, how much of his prize money had he used for service to the people compared to his expenses during three elections – four, counting from the 2007 election when he lost? How much came from his pork barrel funds?

Third, he has not severed his connections with Arum and other members of the Pacquiao Team in the US even if he had declared his retirement. If his political career is truly his top priority, he should have cut their professional relations.

What must the Senate do?

Will it continue spoiling Pacquiao as the House had done? The news reports cited above imply that the leader of the Senate – whether the outgoing or incoming president – has given Pacquaio the permission for a leave after October 15?

The Senate ought to be strict with its rules and uncompromising with its honor and dignity and those of each of its members. Is it in keeping with its honor and dignity for the Senate to allow Senator Emmanuel Pacquiao to continue being a ward – the fighting cock — of Arum and be battered in the ring?

Very lately, President Rodrigo R. Duterte warned government employees that extending their 15-minute merienda time is a form of swindling the government. This cannot compare with the case of Pacquiao. For six years as congressman, he had been paid his salary and allowances while training for his two fights a year. Will the Senate continue tolerating this? In President Duterte’s term, this is swindling the government.

But Pacquiao has the right to love and pursue boxing passionately. However, this right is in conflict with the right of the people — not only 16 million voters who elected him — to benefit from the mandate they have given him.

With due respect for his right, the Senate should let Pacquiao choose freely – give up boxing for good to serve in the Senate; or, resign from the Senate to pursue boxing, his love and only source of his livelihood.

What if the senator refuses to make a choice? The Senate must prove to be more equal to the test. Let the senator realize that mandate matters. (Comment” is Mr. Patricio P. Diaz’ column for MindaViews, the opinion section of MindaNews. Mr. Diaz is the recipient of a “Lifetime Achievement Award” from the Titus Brandsma for his “commitment to education and public information to Mindanawons as Journalist, Educator and Peace Advocate. You may e-mail your comments to patpdiazgsc@yahoo.com)

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