POLITICS, like boxing, is the other people. Both are Darwinian and Machiavellian in their dynamics. The end justifies the means, the fittest survives. Sen. Manny ‘Pacman’ Pacquiao is fighting two wars at the same time in both fields. The outcomes for both are uncertain, if not dicey.
On the one hand, all hands are on deck in preparation for his bout with boxing champ Aaron Spencer Jr. in what might as well be billed as Pacman ,the Elder versus Spencer the Younger. Most boxing experts and analysts make a big deal of his age as a huge minus when he climbs the ring on August 21. A boxing expert, a big fan of the Filipino legend, puts it dramatically: you get old by merely climbing the stairs. At 42, he could be a senior citizen when he reaches the ring. Take that like a Duterte joke. Truth is, Pacquiao needs nothing short of a miracle to escape injury, much less win the title, most experts and analyst agree.
On the other hand, thousands of miles across the Pacific, Pacquiao is being aggressively exfoliated by President Duterte and allies while doing surgical political moves to control the damage of his denunciation of humungous corruption in the Duterte watch. He has been root-canalled like a bad tooth but not excised like a bad cell from Duterte’s body politic, the PDP Laban. He was not expelled, so go the political apologists, merely given a lateral arabasque. His principal ally in the party,Sen. Koko Pimentel, is offered a consuelo de bobo as member of the Council of Elders. He is ,after all, pointed to by Duterte himself as Pacquiao’s mentor and should also be blamed for acting the way his protégé does.
Whether he wins or loses his fight against Spencer, Pacquiao’s legendary reputation and world respect for his unmatched feat as boxer will not diminish. He will only come out of it as bigger in persona and prosperity. Of course, victory is preferred by his countrymen like Rep. Rufus Rodriguez, a fellow politician from Mindanao, who has called on Duterte and company for a ceasefire in their demolition job so as not to distract Pacman from the goal. The distraction is embarrassingly unpatriotic.
Rufus’s pleading is a moonshot. Politics is a non-stop business. You have to settle, as Todd Griffin said in his “Letters to Young Activist” , for the less ideal result “because you live alongside others, because they are the field of your action , because consequences count and history is unforgiving”.
Right now, the Duterte camp is writing the narratives about Pacquiao, that he’s the victim of his own naivete, driven by an overwhelming ambition to get to the top of the hill at all cost, that he’s more than imperfect, and has issues that can be called skeletons his closet. The message is drilled hither and tither and because, as Griffin describes politics, it is a world bound together by media, investment and violence, and consequences ripple far and wide. The so-called 357 or so troll farms exposed by the Senate must be working full time.
Curiously, Pacman seems to give priority to his reputation as a boxer, more than his redemption as a politician. He has dumped tons of corruption charges against the Duterte administration only to leave in a huff to honor his commitment to a fight before a bigger audience in the United States. He promised to pursue the former after the bout with Spencer. He has threatened to engage Presidential Spokesman Harry Roque with the latter’s ‘watusi’ dwarfing of his accusations when he comes back from the fight, win or lose.
In the boxing world, Pacquiao is unanimously hailed as a warrior who doesn’t walk away from a good fight. He is seen as one who performs even better when the odds are not in his favor. In his political fight at home, he’s image isn’t exactly like the one he’s famous for as a boxer. Is Duterte right in saying that he may be good in boxing but not in politics?
When he comes back, Pacquiao is expected to walk his talk. By the that time, Duterte shall have made his last state- of -the -nation address which should paint a picture entirely different from Pacquiao’s raining his parade with corruption allegations. Pimentel appears to bide his time to counteract the dimunition and demolition of his disciple as national political figure. Perhaps, Pimentel is just being a realist who subscribes to Napoleon’s view that morality lies on the heavier side of the artillery.
Between now and his return, a few things are certain. He will remain unwelcome as a candidate by the opposition. In fact, by not leaving the PDP-Laban despite the heavy beatings he has received from all angles, he doesn’t intend to. Or so it seems. It is conceivable that Duterte will not change his mind about him as a presidential bet. He has been weighed and found wanting. Blood is also thicker than water.
A month is too long in politics. Duterte like Pacquiao trusts his instincts. Add to that his devil-may-care skill as a politician, his populist image and a Teflon-like popularity. Pacquiao may not have what it takes to go the distance in a political brawl with the man he stops short of saying corruption stops at his door.