Tuesday, June 17, 2014

The congressman as coach

This is my column today, June 17, 2014.


We all allow Emmanuel Manny Pacquiao a lot of leeway on account of the fact that he is the national boxing champ.  He has brought honors to the country, although it can be argued that there is so much to be desired insofar as his behavior and performance outside of the boxing ring is concerned.  Although he has supposedly turned his back on a number of vices that included gambling, drinking, and womanizing when he became a born-again Christian, he has also sadly turned into a Bible-thumping zealot and homophobe. 
But because he is Manny Pacquiao, the boxing champ that is adored by many, we choose to see beyond his many imperfections including the giant ego and the seeming predilection to make rash judgment.
It was confirmed last week that Pacquiao would be the Head Coach of Team Kia, the newest basketball team in the Philippine Basketball Association. 
I am not qualified to judge Pacquiao’s qualification to become a basketball coach, although as a human resource management professional I strongly advocate that people be appointed to high profile posts on the basis of proven competencies.  I know that Pacquiao plays basketball, but I am sure there are many athletes out there who are better players, who are more qualified to become Head Coach of a PBA team, and more importantly, who need the job more than Pacquiao. 
Unfortunately, Pacquiao’s status as a national boxing champ, his immense popularity particularly with the Philippine masa, and his clout in Philippine society as a sports icon and an elected congressman, are factors that are bound to catapult a new basketball team into the league of the more popular sports teams.  So, it’s a good business decision.  It’s probably also good for the PBA as the presence of Pacquiao in the court will probably translate into more attention, interest, and viewership.
Unfortunately, it’s not good for Congress, and ultimately, for the Filipino people.  We already look the other way when Pacquiao misses sessions in Congress while he trains for his boxing matches.  We know that his boxing gets in the way of the performance of his duties as congressman.
But what does it say of us if we allow Pacquiao to assume the post of Head Coach of a PBA team knowing fully well that the job is also a full-time job?  Even granting for the sake of argument that Pacquiao have powers of bilocation and that he can actually do both at the same time, there’s still the matter of his stature as a duly elected member of Congress.  As it is, it’s already bad enough that we see a member of Congress being reduced to a bloody pulp in the boxing ring twice a year; do we really have to watch Congressman Pacquiao being roundly booed by Barangay Ginebra fans or making wrong calls and decisions in full view of millions of basketball fans?
I think there should be limits to the extent to which elected representatives are allowed to make utter fools of themselves. 
Of course lawyers will always find a way to get around laws in this country, but I believe that there is potential conflict of interest particularly if Pacquiao is paid professional fees for performing his duties as Head Coach.  He would be performing two full time jobs in addition to his endorsements, his boxing matches, his television shows, etc.  Which one is his real job?
And then there is the matter of what his appointment as Head Coach means in terms of the qualification standards for basketball coaches in this country.  Does this mean anyone—as in anyone as long as that person has popularity and clout—can be appointed coach in the PBA? 
Those who think that the PBA is just a tournament and basketball is just a simple ball game in this country needs to wake up and undergo a reality check.  There’s a reason why big business is involved and why there is a commission that regulates the games.  In this country, basketball is not just a game.

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