Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Pacquiao the lawmaker and son

This was my column on the date indicated above. This post is antedated.

A friend was kind enough to call my attention to a small oversight in the piece I wrote for this space last Monday —there was an unfinished sentence somewhere towards the end of the column.

In last Monday’s column I wrote that “The congressman from Sarangani province wore yellow gloves supposedly as representation of the ultimate fight he wants to wage: Uniting the Filipino people against poverty. I see pundits gathering their thoughts on just exactly how Pacquiao boxing career.” Obviously, the last sentence did not make sense and I realized after doing some checking that the omission was my fault; the file I sent was not the final document.

I’ve always believed mistakes happen for a reason and in this case, it has given me the opportunity to expound on the Pacquiao phenomenon. What I really wanted to say in last Monday’s piece was that I expected that very soon people would start talking about just how exactly Pacquiao can translate his various triumphs in the boxing ring into more tangible programs that would benefit the Filipino people. Sure, we are happy with the kind of honor that he has been reaping for the country; but since he says he wants to do more, it behooves us to do what we can to help the guy even if it only means helping him process ideas.

Besides, Emmanuel Pacquiao was introduced in last Sunday’s boxing bout with Sugar Shane Mosley as “The congressman from the Province of Sarangani Philippines.” The introduction was significant in many ways. I think it was the first time that someone went up into a professional boxing ring to trade blows with another person while carrying with him a relatively exalted position in national politics.

I am not sure how many other professional boxers out there are also at the same time congressmen. I know there are boxers who eventually pursued public careers as politicians or community leaders, but not at the same time that they were professional boxers. The fact that Pacquiao is allowed to be both raises a number of questions since the two careers are not exactly related to each other—in fact they are worlds apart; in addition, both are demanding careers.

Becoming a legislator of note requires dedication and commitment; it certainly requires the legislator’s physical presence in Congress! A legislator needs to attend hearings and must consult with various constituencies and stakeholders. The crafting of laws is a serious task and cannot be done in a vacuum; one needs to consult as many people as possible to ensure that everyone’s interests are considered. Obviously, these are things Pacquiao cannot do when he is training for his fights which require utmost concentration. The recent fight with Mosley required at least two months of training. If he goes up the ring once again in November to settle a running score with Juan Manuel Marquez, he would have to spend another three months in training and for the fight itself. That would mean that in 2011, he would have attended probably less than a tenth of sessions in Congress.

Of course the value that Pacquiao brings to the country is difficult to ignore. It can be argued that he gives the country more honor than any other congressman (some would even dare to suggest that Pacquiao does more to this country’s image than all the congressmen combined although that is certainly a hasty and immature generalization). But he did sign up and campaign heavily to become congressman so he has a responsibility to the Filipino people.

There are those who continue to sneer at the fact that this country elected someone like Pacquiao as congressman. Those who do so because the man speaks carabao English are not worth acknowledging; I think ridiculing a person because he can’t speak good English is childish. The snobbery also smacks of bigotry. But one must admit that there is reason to doubt the man’s overall fitness for the job and not necessarily because of reasons of intellectual capability. On the other hand, his election has been a good boost to the cause of multiple intelligences. Boxing does require high level of thinking skills even if people cannot see beyond the fisticuffs.

But we must still grapple with the question of whether Pacquaio’s achievements in boxing compensate for his shortcomings as legislator. Put another way, should we tolerate the fact that Pacquiao is remiss in his functions as legislator simply because he has been doing this country a great favor by boosting our pride and honor in the field of boxing?

There are people who believe Pacquiao is doing great as a congressman because he has great plans for the people of the province of Sarangani. He is supposedly trying to raise funds from various sources including proceeds from his concerts to construct a hospital for each of the towns in the province. While the intent is sincere and well meaning, the long-term consequences are actually disastrous. Future candidates for the post of congressman of Sarangani will have to measure up to the same misplaced expectations—which is looking at congressmen as a source of direct assistance.

This is the reason we cannot extricate ourselves from the traditional paradigm of politics which involves patronage and doles. This is why we cannot get rid of the pork barrel fund, which as we all know is the main source of corruption in this country. Congressmen are seen as source of political largesse rather than as astute lawmakers whose primary job responsibility is to create and nurture an ecosystem of laws and regulations that is enabling and ennobling for business and society.

***

An interesting sidelight to the whole Pacquiao phenomenon is the rise of Dionisia Pacquiao, referred to as the Pac-Mom and portrayed generally as the epitome of the typical everyday Filipino mother. It’s difficult not to feel a certain degree of affinity with the woman. Hers is the classic story of the mater dolorosa, the suffering mother who singularly put her children to school by taking on odd jobs. She is feisty, garrulous, and unapologetic about her penchant for brandishing her newfound wealth.

She is now finally enjoying some level of comfort courtesy of her very successful son. And very typical of the Filipino who has achieved some level of success, her taste has also climbed up several notches on the social ladder.

No media coverage of a Pacquiao match has ever been complete without a chronicle of Dionisia Pacquiao’s emotional sideshow. Thankfully she has decided to forego with the hysterics in the last two fights—I think she has finally come to realize that going into hysterics is not something someone wearing a Chanel dress, Jimmy Choo shoes, and Louis Vuitton bag does.

A lot has been made about the fact that she asked her son for a Hermes bag as her “balato” (share of the booty) in case of a victory, because in her own words, she hasn’t experienced holding one in her arms. The cost of a Hermes bag starts at around a hundred thousand pesos with the high-end versions costing about four million. That’s certainly a lot of money for a birthday gift. But then again, not as costly as the other birthday gift she asked for: Pacquiao’s retirement from boxing. In the end, mothers may know best, but that doesn’t mean their children listen to them.

No comments: