I watched with great anticipation last weekend’s boxing match between Filipino boxing legend Manny Pacquiao and Mexican challenger Jorge Solis. The watch probably wasn’t a classic compared to Pacquiao’s previous fight. Still, the excitement was there and the fans were treated to a brawl in the last three rounds of the match. My wife and I cheered with every flurry of punches that connected. Solis was way out of his league.
Still, one can’t help notice that the boxing match was used as an occasion by some parties to actively “promote” the candidacy of Pacquiao who is running for a congressional seat in his hometown General Santos.
I noticed that the commentators and even the ring announcer made references to Pacquiao’s candidacy, even addressing him as “congressman”. Top Rank productions may have wittingly allowed the cameras to focus on placards or streamers bearing signs such as “Vote Manny” or “Goodbye Darlene” (Antonino-Custodio, Pacquiao’s congressional opponent).
In the post-fight interview, you could here people chanting in the background “congressman, congressman”.
I felt that the production people should have been more conscious in preventing the match from being used as vehicle for Pacquiao’s political activities. It could have been handled in such a way that the blatant campaigning would have been toned down during the coverage.
I also received reports that Malacañang allegedly gave Pacquiao an undisclosed amount, some sort of cash incentive for his recent win. Cash incentives are presumed normal for athletes as Pacquiao isn’t the first to receive such. Still, what is disturbing for me is a report I got that Pacquiao received the amount of P8 million drawn from the Presidential Social Fund.
This alleged amount is highly disproportionate to the cash incentives often given to other athletes who have excelled in other sports. And to think that such an amount was allegedly given to a professional athlete who is already earning millions (as opposed to amateur athletes representing the country in the Olympics or regional tournaments.)
The cash incentive also raises the question of propriety considering Pacquiao is also a congressional candidate. The cash gift may be construed as an attempt by Malacanang to further boost the candidacy of Pacquiao.
This is probably the first time that an athlete of the stature of Pacquiao would be running for a congressional seat (in the Hello Garci era, no less). We can’t blame watchdog groups and opposition forces from raising questions that pertain to the already unfair advantage enjoyed by Malacañang allies during the present elections. We the people, deserve a better answer, a better explanation, than what we have been getting from the Comelec.