Pacquiao is Engulfed by Traditional Philippine Politics and Catholic Church

Philippine Congressman and WBO welterweight champion Manny Pacquiao (photo from Wikipedia)

Can Pacquiao overcome traditional Philippine politics and the Catholic church?

Manny Pacquiao is known worldwide as the new welterweight champion of the World Boxing Organization after defeating Brandon Rios on November 24, 2013 in Macau, China.

He is less known as the congressman of the lone district of Saranggani province in Mindanao. He is now in his second term.

Pacquiao has come to Philippine politics through boxing. He was watched by Filipinos as he fought for several years on the ring gaining championships in eight weight division, a record in boxing history.

He also earned a lot of money from his boxing profession that he can finance his own candidacy.

First try

Pacquiao first ran for the Lower House of Philippine Congress about seven years ago for Cotabato province. His opponent was a traditional politician. He lost.

He ran under the party of the administration led by then Pres. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. One of the lessons he learned from that candidacy is that the electorate want somebody who had attained some high level of education. Whereupon he embarked on special classes to finish his elementary and high school education.

Two years earlier, Pacquiao could hardly speak English that he needed an interpreter when interviewed during promotions for his boxing bouts and after the boxing match.

About one year ago he now can speak conversational English that he no longer needed an interpreter when interviewed.

Second candidacy

Smarting from his defeat in his own province, Pacquiao moved to Saranggani, the province of his wife, Jinky who won as vice governor in the May 2013 elections. There was a protest in his candidacy with the charge that he comes from Cotabato. However, Pacquiao had stayed long enough in Saranggani that his candidacy for congressman was approved by the Commission on Elections.

He set up his own party, the People’s Champ Movement. However, he still affiliated with a nationwide party. Pacquiao won in his first try in Saranggani.

During his incumbency as congressman he took a leave of at least three months from Congress to train for his international boxing bouts. He averaged one bout per year, losing two. Even when defeated, the Filipinos still consider him “Pambansang Kamao,” meaning national fist.

Meantime he said he had fulfilled his duties as congressman having set up a hospital in Saranggani and other important and visible projects.

Ambassador of the bible

Pacquiao has shown religious fervor by praying on the ring before the boxing bout and after the bout. He said he prayed for his safety and for the safety of his opponent as well.

Having seen his religious fervor, the Catholic church conferred on him official recognition and appointed him "ambassador of the bible." From here on Pacquiao has shown more intensity in his religious advocacy.

Judging from his endorsement of the position of the Catholic church in the floor of Congress and voting on the Reproductive Health bill, Pacquiao is now a true-blue ambassador of the Catholic church.

Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago of the Philippine Senate, author of 30 books in law and a constitutional law expert once urged Pacquiao to stay out of the debate on the Reproductive Health bill. It appeared that the lady senator thought the issue of reproductive health is still beyond the intellect of Pacquiao.

However, Pacquiao proceeded with his advocacy against the Reproductive Health bill, speaking the language of the Catholic church.

A political threat?

Pacquiao could be seen as a threat in any elective position, as congressman, as senator, as vice president even as president. Remember, when he will have reached legal age Pacquiao is qualified to run for vice president or president of the Philippines.

There have been several cases of Filipino candidates winning elective positions owing to their popularity. One is former senator Freddie Webb who was a popular basketball player. Another is Robert Jaworski who was also a popular basketball player.

Pacquiao is much more popular than either Webb or Jaworski.

Popularity has already catapulted one to the presidency. Joseph Estrada is a famous actor playing the role as champion of the poor. He won as president despite the fact that he was a college dropout and a womanizer. He is married to one, and has fathered children in two other women, all cases known to the electorate.

The Filipino electorate has shown propensity to vote for a popular candidate. If Pacquiao will run for the Senate or for the vice presidency or for the presidency, the electorate will highly probably vote for him owing to his popularity.

Nip in the bud

In the past three days radio and television have carried news stories of the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) running after Pacquiao. BIR says Pacquiao owes the government some 2 billion pesos in taxes.

Pacquiao said on television that he had paid his taxes showing some papers on television as proof.

Some people interpret the BIR moves as ways to cut down on the political assets of Pacquiao.

Congressman Pacquiao had moved from the Liberal Party, the party of President Benigno Simeon C. Aquino III, to the UNA party, an opposition party. This party has political stalwarts like Joseph Estrada and Jejomar Binay, the incumbent vice president.

In his statements regarding the tax evasion case, Pacquiao has been wise to say that he does not believe President Aquino III has a hand. At least Pacquiao has avoided a head on collision with the Liberal Party.

Estrada ran and won for mayor of Manila in the May 2013 elections. That may show that he will no longer run for the presidency next time around. Most probably Binay will run for the presidency instead. And Pacquiao can run for senator or for vice president if his age will not bar him.

Hope on Pacquiao?

Combined with popularity is hope pinned on Pacquiao that won for Pacquiao a seat on the Lower House for Saranggani. The people of Saranggani have hoped that Pacquiao can spend even his own resources for their welfare. And in some cases, their hopes have become true.

However, there are some reservations on pinning too much hope on Pacquiao.

One. He is a traditional politician. We do not mean that he is involved in scams like the Priority Development Fund. That he has affiliated with traditional national parties like the Liberal Party and UNA makes him a traditional politician.

Two. Pacquiao has accepted the position of ambassador of the bible conferred on him by the Catholic church. This church, owned by the Vatican, does not pay taxes on its businesses in the Philippines. It is laundering money (like alms and profits from businesses) from the Philippines to Rome. The Catholic church has landholdings in the Philippines that constitute a virtual empire of the Vatican in the Philippines. These landholdings had been awarded by the Spanish king during the Spanish colonial period.

As ambassador of the bible Pacquiao enjoys endorsement by the Catholic church in his candidacy for any political position. Therefore, there is no hope that Pacquiao will go against the wishes of the Catholic church. If he did, the Catholic church would campaign against him.

Therefore, there is no hope that Pacquiao will make a move to have the Catholic church pay taxes and stop it from money laundering. There is no hope that Pacquiao will make a move to retrieve the landholdings being illegally controlled by the Catholic church.

If Pacquiao had conquered several boxers in the ring, he is conquered by the Catholic church without a fight. It is not wrong to have religion. What is wrong is that this religion is minding how the state governs.

Three. Pacquiao has joined traditional politics in the Philippines. The main feature of this kind of politics is that the ruling class dominates the Philippines. The ruling class comprises only 10% of the Filipinos. This ruling class derives its power from ownership of haciendas that were awarded by the Spanish king. These haciendas are a main cause of poverty in the Philippines.

Pacquiao has joined this ruling class by virtue of his own resources earned from boxing.

Pacquiao has streaks of a maverick politician. Having set up his own party, the Peoples’s Champ Movement, shows that. However, it appears that it is beyond him to think beyond traditional politics and sponsor the true aspirations of the people. Even traditional politicians who have attained high education have shown that.


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