PacMan now a political heavyweight

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SAN PABLO CITY, Laguna: Boxing legend Manny Pacquiao smiles as he soaks up the sounds of adoring fans screaming his name, their cheers heralding a new career as one of the Philippines’ most powerful politicians.

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After winning his farewell fight against Tim Bradley, the eight-time world champion hit the campaign trail this week in a bid to secure a seat in the Senate when Filipinos go to the polls on May 9.

Pacquiao’s rise from desperate street kid to to boxing superstar has made him one of the nation’s biggest heroes and, in a nation where celebrities often become lawmakers, he is effortlessly translating sporting success into the political ring.

Surveys show Pacquiao, whose real name is Emmanuel and who is also fondly called PacMan, is virtually guaranteed to win a Senate seat and his journey through shanty towns near Manila, where he threw caps and other souvenirs to joyous fans holding life-sized posters of him, appeared more a victory lap than an effort to convince skeptical voters.

“I’m happy campaigning right now. So many people are shouting, cheering for me. I’m glad with the warm welcome in every rally. I really didn’t expect that,” he told Agence France-Presse on Thursday during a break from the festivities.

With constant speculation that another mega-bucks bout against American rival Floyd Mayweather Jr. might lure him out of retirement, Pacquiao insisted he was enjoying “retired life” and that he was not thinking about boxing at all.

“I’m now a full-time politician. I remember when I dedicated myself to be a boxer and become a champion. It’s my feeling right now,” he said.

Pacquiao, who has served two terms as a congressman, is running for a seat in the
24-member Senate as part of a long-term strategy to become President, a not unrealistic ambition given his wild popularity.

His international reputation, however, took a huge hit in February when the devout evangelical Christian described homosexuals as “worse than animals.”

Major sponsor Nike immediately canceled its partnership with him and a host of US celebrities voiced outrage.

But the comments had far less impact in the Philippines, with surveys showing his popularity slumping only slightly afterward then quickly recovering.

Boosted by his success against Bradley this month, Pacquiao is now in third place in the Senate race and a near certainty to take one of the 12 seats available, according to the latest survey from a major pollster.

Message for the poor

Campaigning in the bustling city of San Pablo on Thursday, there was no sign of rancor.
Vendors and tricycle drivers mobbed Pacquiao as he got off a flatbed truck, eager to touch their hero and pose for selfies.

A high school drop-out, he entered boxing to feed his family, and he says his political ambitions are anchored on his desire to help the poor.

Pacquiao is promising to increase the salaries of teachers, offer scholarships to poor students and give subsidies to farmers, selling himself as a beacon of hope for millions of poor who have not felt the benefits of stellar economic growth under President Benigno Aquino 3rd.

“I tell them not to be discouraged because our life was worse than theirs. We did not have our own house, our own land and sometimes even food,” he said.

“I experienced what it was like to sleep on the streets. I want to serve so they will be proud that Manny is for the poor.”

Many in San Pablo said they were drawn to Pacquiao’s message, as they talked about their own hardships.

“I hope he gives projects for non-college graduates,” said housewife Jessica Bautista, 29, who only finished grade school.

“I hope we get training because the government and companies only prioritize graduates but we have no diploma.”

Bautista’s husband, Julius, a tricycle driver, said he also supported Pacquiao.

“He is already rich so he will not be corrupt. I hope he just gives his salary to the poor,” Julius added.

Answering his critics, who say he is not fit to be a senator because he has little education or track record as an effective lawmaker, Pacquiao insisted his rags-to-riches story was enough to qualify him for the job.

“God raised me from nothing into something. I think I am the right person, the best person to answer the poor,” he said.

AFP

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7 Comments

  1. I like Pacman as a boxer, a one in a million guy. But let us look at his performance as a congressman, never mind his education for now. He only attended 3 sessions in the lower house. He is not interested being a law maker because if he is, he will be attending more sessions. He is not in the ring 365 days a year. So what is he doing when he is not on traing ? We paid him to work and even if the amount of salary is smll, I still expect service for monies paid. Am I right or not ?

  2. Manny has been a great ambassador for the Philippines through boxing, thats brilliant & its correct that everyone loves him for that. He deserves that, now him switiching to full time politics as a congressman is brilliant in theory, yes we all love to hear Manny will give free this & free that to the poor. Its brilliant but just ask him how it will be paid for. Running a country can be made quite easy to sort of understand for the not so well educated when you put it this way. Wherever you live you will have your income for your household. You will have your expenses for your household. If your expenses are more than your income you will get into debt more & more with every week & month & year. Do you want your country to get deeper & deeper into debt each year as one day it has to be paid back & its your children or their children who have to pay it back. America will soon learn that for themselves very soon. Do not fall into that trap. Elect bright people who also care about the country & then slowly but surely the Philippines will get better & better for everyone. Good luck to you all.

  3. Rodan Guerrero on

    Of course Manny Pacquiao is one in a million as a sportsman. He is a legend in boxing which could never be outperformed for a long time if never. But then POLITICS is very much different. If people will ride on the his FOOLISH POLITICAL BAND-WAGON the we will soon have a NEAR TO ILLITERATE SENATOR. Can you imagine having a member of the Philippine Senate who has not even finished the grade school? Pacquiao will further degrade our political system which already at its lowest level. In my own assessment, he cant even be a Baranggay Captain of a highly urbanized city. Let us stop this man from making the senate into a house of FOOLs.

    • Having good education is a lot of help for anyone but not an assurance that could be relied upon. Majority of now corrupt government officials are well educated but if you will read in the news papers everyday you will fell into frustration. Who are they, the criminals? they came from the best universities in the Philippines and as far as America but because the value of their education for them is only like a toilet papers, they turned corrupt where Philippines got the title as one of the most corrupt countries in the world. History tells us also that majority of the billionaires around the world are dropped out high school or college students. Intelligence could not be artificial in ones own life. It is already in the blood of the individual has it. I think Pacquiao level of intelligence is higher than those who have already finished in college.

    • I strongly agree with you.To become a boxer of his caliber you’ve got not to be only physically exceptional but as well mentally. Pac man is a talented man, has guts and will learn of his new mandate if given a chance. He’s a new force we should not discount.

    • I agree 100% manny pacquiao is an ideal public servant, he might not be as highly educated as the other politicians, but his genuine desire to serve and capability to serve will make him more qualified than those well educated corrupt, no respect with woman,killers, maniac,