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Philippines

Pacquiao's loss should not be a prelude to the presidency

Excelling at sport is one thing but being successful in public office is an entirely different matter

Pacquiao's loss should not be a prelude to the presidency

Boxer Manny Pacquiao has expressed a desire to become president of the Philippines. (Photo: AFP)

The remarkable story of Manny “PacMan” Pacquiao has indeed touched and inspired many Filipinos to dream big.

From a poor family in General Santos province in Mindanao to one of the country’s billionaires and prominent politicians, Pacquiao’s life is proof that nothing is impossible with hard work and dedication.

At age 15, he moved to Manila and lived on the streets while working as a construction worker. He did not finish high school because of poverty. He went instead to live with his uncle who taught him how to box.

Instead of going to school, Pacquiao traveled from one city to another to fight in amateur boxing competitions during town fiestas.

Amateur boxing and street brawls led him to persevere in his craft. There was money in boxing, and he was good at it, so he dedicated his time to earning money from it.

In 2019, Forbes listed Pacquiao as the 92nd highest-paid sportsman in the world with a net worth of US$26 million based on his winnings and endorsements.

From rags to riches. from boxing to lawmaking, Pacquiao’s story is testimony that nothing is impossible to a willing mind

In March 2021, boxing pundits said Pacquiao was the world’s third-richest boxer behind Floyd Mayweather, Jr. and George Foreman with a net worth of $220 million.

Meanwhile, Pacquiao pursued his ambitions outside the ring by entering politics.

In 2010, he won a seat in the Philippine House of Representatives representing Sarangani province in Mindanao. In 2013, he was re-elected after running unopposed.

In 2016, he was elected a senator after garnering 16 million votes, coming seventh among 12 new members of the Philippine Senate.

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From rags to riches, from boxing to lawmaking, Pacquiao’s story is testimony that nothing is impossible to a willing mind. But is politics an area he should explore further?

Before Pacquiao lost to Cuban boxer Yordenis Ugas on Aug. 21, his political spokesman revealed the Filipino champion’s political plans.

“After the Las Vegas fight will be the biggest fight of his life in May of next year, and if he wins [against Ugas] it will only add more mileage and inspire the people to support him,” Monico Puentevella told Al Jazeera.

The Philippine presidential election is just around the corner and candidacy registration begins in October.

Pacquiao has been eyeing the presidency and believes his election to the country’s highest office is written in the stars. “I’m destined to be there,” he told Sports Illustrated in a recent interview.

But is leading a nation the same as boxing? Should Pacquiao’s battles remain in the ring or should he bring them in the political arena?

According to the Philippine Constitution: “No person may be elected president unless he is a natural-born citizen of the Philippines, a registered voter, able to read and write, is at least 40 years of age on the day of the election, and a resident of the Philippines for at least 10 years immediately preceding such election.”

In terms of academic qualification, the constitution merely requires the president to be able to read and write. The constitution only sets the minimum requirements, yet the complexity and intricacy of the office surely require higher qualifications.

The country needs a leader who has the ability to unite rather than someone who divides the nation with bigotry

With a ballooning international debt brought by the pandemic, the Philippines needs a president who will lead health and economic experts in dealing with the desperate situation of the people.

What the country needs is a policymaker equipped with skills to restore democracy and respect human rights. A good president is not a puppet. His actions must not be manipulated by oligarchs or friends around him who compete for his attention and affirmation.

At the peak of his boxing career, Manny Pacquiao joined a professional basketball league in the Philippines. He also became a recording artist.

But logic dictates — just because he joined a professional basketball league and produced an album did not mean he excelled in doing them.

The country needs a leader who has the ability to unite rather than someone who divides the nation with bigotry.

In 2016, Pacquiao provoked a storm in the Philippine LGBT community by saying gay people were “worse than animals.”

He later apologized for his remarks, saying he was against same-sex marriage because that is “what the Bible teaches.”

He has also developed a reputation as a part-time politician

The country needs a champion of human rights, not someone who supports extrajudicial killings.

Before his relationship with Duterte turned sour, Pacquiao had defended the president’s war on illegal drugs, raising questions over his views on human rights.

He has also developed a reputation as a part-time politician, having been absent from many congressional and senatorial sittings and votes, which does not inspire confidence in his leadership abilities.  

Only philosopher-kings must rule, the Greek philosopher Plato said in The Republic.

The philosopher-king is the only person who can be trusted to rule well because he is morally and intellectually suited to rule: morally because he is capable of appreciating abstract concepts like justice, fairness and truth, and intellectually because he alone can separate fact from fiction, freeing his mind from impurities that tarnish the soul.

It is high time for the Filipino people to elect philosopher-kings.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official editorial position of UCA News.

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