Manny Pacquiao is a great boxer and a greater human being. He is also one big economic engine. His cash transfers alone to his massive entourage and his and Jinkee’s political constituents—plus the ex-boxers who receive from his generosity—are a boost to the economy. Not included in his cash transfers are the promotional work he does for companies, which in turn lifts up the national productivity.
His deep faith and humility are also admirable traits.
But enough is enough. The inordinate attention to his recent boxing loss, what he plans to do next, and most things about his life should cease to be the national obsession. Unless, we want to descend – collectively as a people – into the only country in the world whose pulse and heartbeat are lodged in a boxing match.
Boxing as the opiate of the people. Are there other wretched spots of the world whose grief and joy lie in the outcome of a boxing match? None that we know of. Mexico, during the presidency of Vicente Fox, had champions in many boxing divisions. Had Fox spent most of his time issuing statements to congratulate the Mexican champions and hauling them into the presidential palace for photo-ops, he would have not much time left for serious governing.
We are an embarrassing global outlier in the sense that we are the only country in the world that debates and argues, posts and tweets, ad infinitum about a boxing match. This never-ending discussion about a boxing match is abetted by a media that is probably afraid to dwell much on the inner rots that are plaguing the nation. The real and major issues that need public and private attention.
But for how long can the debates about a boxing match hide the inner rots of the nation? How long could the cult of celebrity worship cover up our Potemkin villages? Some would argue that even the largest economy in the world is likewise obsessed with the Jenners and the Kardashians. And that Great Britain obscured the real election issues with the so-called “media macro” or the patently baseless media-generated narratives on the state of the British economy.
The difference is this: There are strong civic, media and political institutions that counter the false narratives and celebrity worship there. There are no reining and tempering mechanisms here as the mainstream media currently lives off every twist and turn of the boxing match. Those who point out the sad truths, that there are more important things to the nation than the issues related to the boxing match, are either ostracized or discredited.
As the issues related to that boxing match continued to addle the minds of most Filipinos, two very important news got minor media play, then quickly got archived as worthless trash. The first one was about a poverty survey, which, in other settings, would have provoked a long national and nightmarish discussion. The survey found out that over 11 million Filipino families, or 51 percent of the total families, self-rated themselves as poor. The worst cases said they were food-hungry, or they could not even get enough of bad food to put into their empty stomachs.
Given the pride of most Filipinos (I am in the bottom 40 percent but I would not tell the survey takers that I am in that category), that 51 percent was certainly a gross understatement. More are living in abject poverty but just won’t admit it.
What happened next, after that poverty survey was made public, was the predictable indifference of a nation dulled by a boxing match. Who cares about empty stomachs when we have a “ People’s Champ” that can fill the void in our humdrum lives? The leadership, too embarrassed this time around to pledge programs of “inclusive growth,” just let the issue of massive and intractable poverty pass. It can afford to. Real issues, or life and death issues, can be trumped any day by the issues related to that boxing match.
Lesser public grievances, this is the sad truth, fueled the Arab Spring and the Occupy Wall Street protests.
The following day, the media reported, another survey, this time taken by the wealth-centric magazine Forbes, the one what tracks global wealth and regularly lists down the global dollar billionaires. In a survey of the world’s largest and powerful publicly-listed entities, or the Forbes 2000 list, eight publicly-listed Philippine conglomerates were in that elite circle.
The total capitalization of the eight Philippine firms was over $77.7 billion and profitability has been sustained and massive. Left unsaid was this. Given the un-public nature of most Philippine public corporations, we are sure of these: cross ownerships, tight control over these corporations by the controlling interests and very timid independent directors, who, in the ideal world should be activists and dissidents.
Since we do not have the likes of Carl Icahn, there is very little protection of public interest in these large Philippine corporations. The controlling families are free to run these firms as fiefdoms.
Was anyone bothered by the 51 percent and the Elite Eight in the Forbes 2000 list? Not one. Not the sanctimonious leaders of the Church, not the so-called civil society, not the political leadership. They are all too busy giving their take on a boxing match.