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Congressman Pacman

When a man has everything in this country, what does he do?

He enters politics.

Boxing icon Manny Pacquiao is a billionaire (in peso terms) who can afford not to work for the rest of his life. He enjoys international fame and has reaped honors for his country. He has a solid family.

What more can a man who has accomplished so much at a young age want?

He wants to become a congressman in 2010.

Maybe Pacquiao doesn’t like being defeated in anything, and must prove that if he can be a world champion in the ring, he can also win big in another arena.

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But just to make sure, he’s not going for a rematch with the Antonino clan of his native South Cotabato, where the youthful Darlene Antonino-Custodio trounced him in the race for a congressional seat in 2007.

Instead “Pacman” is relocating to neighboring Sarangani, where he has already bought property to satisfy the residency requirement for those running for a seat in the House of Representatives in May 2010.

His potential rivals in Sarangani are already preparing to portray him to voters as a carpetbagger.

Meanwhile, some of his fans are trying to dissuade him from entering the dirty world of Philippine politics.

These fans lament that the political hangers-on who accompany Pacquiao or watch all his matches diminish the celebration of his boxing victories.

But it’s a free country, and as Joseph Estrada likes to remind everyone since his absolute pardon, if he can vote, he can be voted upon.

The Commission on Elections has approved the registration of Pacquiao’s own political party.

Pacquiao is well within his right to run for the House, or even the Senate, where his critics believe he can increase membership in the committee on silence headed by former action star Lito Lapid.

The worst that can happen to Pacquiao is that he loses his bid for the second time, plus a great deal of money in the campaign. But if he can throw away a fortune in the casinos of Las Vegas, he can afford to throw away part of his substantial nest egg in a political campaign.

The size of that nest egg is already beyond the wildest dreams of the average resident of Sarangani, and Pacquiao still has a few more fights – and a few more million dollars in earnings – to go before he retires from boxing.

Even after three more fights, Pacquiao will be too young to enjoy retirement. He needs to do something. And never one to set his sights low, he’s aiming for political office.

* * *

Politics has become the final career stop for entertainers and athletes, media personalities, businessmen and even religious leaders in this country, so the announcement from Pacquiao’s camp should not have been surprising.

But that common trend has not prevented many of Pacquiao’s fans from expressing dismay over his planned career change.

That dismay arises from the thought that politics seems to have become the gold standard in wealth generation in this country of immoderate greed.

The wealth does not come from the modest salary received by a member of Congress. It comes from the unscrupulous use of the congressional pork barrel – about P33 million a year per House member. There are fat commissions from contractors. There’s a lot of money to be made from lobbyists, and even money in brown paper bags when Malacañang is in desperate straits.

The wealth arises from the use of power for personal ends, with the public good an incidental concern.

In this country, family fortunes are built on political power, which is why there is no hope of ever passing an enabling law to implement the constitutional provision banning political dynasties. Once entrenched in power, these political clans can never seem to be rich enough, or powerful enough.

Even jueteng lords, notorious smugglers and bank swindlers see politics as the best way to launder their loot, earn some respect and make more, more money. They see the vote as a validation of their criminal lifestyles.

Some people are particularly dismayed that Pacquiao, who appears to have had less formal education than college dropout Erap, wants to become a lawmaker.

Crafting laws cannot be taken lightly, or else you get a piece of useless legislation like the Human Securities Act that no law enforcer wants to enforce.

Even hiring an army of lawyers as congressional consultants cannot compensate for ignorance of the law on the part of the legislator himself. In the case of Pacquiao, the sycophants that surround him, some of whom could end up as his political and legislative advisers, indicate that he can be a poor judge of character.

There are enough non-performing assets in both chambers of Congress, who are there simply to cast votes in behalf of the party that brought them to power. Why does Pacquiao want to inflict himself on taxpayers in this way? It cannot be public service when you do not understand the nature of the service expected of you.

Some of his fans are advising Pacquiao to run for local government instead, where the requirement for knowledge of the law is much less than for those who want to become legislators.

But governors and mayors also have to deal with local councils. They need knowledge of the law to promote public safety, prevent human rights violations and fight corruption. Good governance requires more than regular mingling with adoring fans, although such a bond can make governance easier.

Unfortunately for critics of Pacquiao’s political plans, his thin résumé for public office may not deter voters in Sarangani.

Ferdinand Marcos, brilliant lawyer and fiery orator, gave intelligence a bad reputation in this country. The current occupant of Malacañang is strengthening that bad rep.

Intelligence has become associated with wiliness – the ability to fool the people and go around the law for personal ends.

Now here comes Pacquiao, great boxer, good singer, loyal son and model family man, a guileless everyday man who made incredibly good, a man who wants your vote.

Pacquiao’s initial foray into politics ended badly in 2007. Like it or not, the people of Sarangani might give him a chance.

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