See, this is what happens when people seek political office just because they can win. And I’m not even talking about Noynoy Aquino, but of the Fighting Pride of the Philippines, Manny “Pac-Man” Pacquiao.
The irony of it all is that Pacquiao’s anti-gay comments probably aren’t going to cost him the Senate seat that he seeks in the May elections. I doubt very much if the Filipino electorate can be swayed enough to deny the champion boxer his heart’s desire, no matter how many homosexual groups denounce him for his store-bought Christian fundamentalist views.
A sophisticated electorate seeks sophisticated candidates. The reverse, unfortunately, is also true, which is why all the pre-election surveys are telling us that there is no stopping the Pac-Man from being sworn into office after the elections three months from now.
Pacquiao, of course, has shown enough political sense to apologize for his sexually extremist remarks, which have generated enough noise from the local gay community to fill a medium-sized boxing arena. But the billionaire boxer’s “worse than animals” remark is sure to stick to him like glue and remain long after he has ended his second career as a politician. But that doesn’t mean he won’t win. And therein lies the tragedy.
I’ve long railed about Pacquiao’s decision to convert his sports and celebrity capital into political equity, on the ground that this typifies everything that is wrong with the way we choose our national leaders. The metamorphosis of Pac-Man from sports superstar to political figure is, after all, brought about by the same obsession with “winnability” that has given us that ever-lengthening parade of opportunistic celebrities who contribute nothing to the national discourse and the legislative agenda - but who win high political office anyway, purely on the strength of popularity and name recall.
On the plus side (and I’m trying really hard here), at least voters now know that Pacquiao actually stands for something, even if that something is homophobia. And I predict that, because he is who he is, the boxer will not be content - as many celebrities have been - to be a part of the permanent committee on silence in the Senate; he will want to be heard, and often, on stuff he knows absolutely nothing about.
What a terrifying thought. And never forget: Pacquiao actually has set his sights on even higher things, like the presidency.
Not content with winning worldwide fame and fortune beyond even his wildest imaginings, Pacquiao wants to be your president, as well. For all our sakes, he must not be allowed to get into that ring.
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There’s a chance that people will get angry enough at Pacquiao to stop him from seeking higher office. But you don’t have to be Chavit Singson to know that the odds of that happening are about the same as the boxer being chosen as the Most Valuable Player in the Philippine Basketball Association.
Basketball, of course, is yet another of the height-challenged Pacquiao’s many obsessions, up there with singing, high-stakes gambling and womanizing. (All of these interests, I think, have convinced Pacquiao that he would make a very good politician.)
I guess someone who grew up dirt-poor in General Santos City and who turned out as well as Pacquiao did can easily be convinced that the world and everything in it, as Scarface believed, can be yours. And Pac-Man, on the verge of retiring from boxing, seems to be of the belief that there is nothing he cannot accomplish, if he sets his mind to it.
I’m not belittling Pacquiao’s accomplishments as a boxer or looking down on him because of the accident of his humble roots. But if Pac-Man really wants to serve his country after leaving the boxing ring, perhaps he can concentrate on his famous - if erratic - philanthropy.
What Pacquiao is really, unquestionably good at, after all, is being a boxer. He can use his unique and world-beating skills, his name recall and his celebrity status to help young people, especially, who want to follow in his historic footsteps - and if they can’t all be boxers, he can help them just the same to get ahead in life.
Of course, no one can tell Pacquiao what he should do with his money, his time and his fame. And since Pacquiao really listens to no one but God, my only hope is that God knocks some sense into him and makes him realize his limitations and not just his vast powers.
Pacquiao right now has achieved the status of a national treasure. It would be sad if he turned from champion boxer to do-nothing politician, someone who had the opportunity to help and inspire but who just decided to cash in.
That said, the rest of us can help Pacquiao by not voting him into office anymore. Really.