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Why rough sailing for Manny’s bills?

Manny Pacquiao

MANILA, Philippines - WBO welterweight champion and Sen. Manny Pacquiao’s pet bill to create a boxing commission has encountered rough sailing but GAB chairman Abraham Mitra said the other day he expects it to be eventually passed into law despite opposition on the debate floor.

“It’s just a matter of time,” said Mitra. “There were points raised by Sen. (Franklin) Drilon on the floor, like the issue of duplicity since boxing is now supervised by GAB, the equal protection clause because other sports won’t enjoy this special treatment and the use of taxpayers money to promote the boxing business. The bill appears to run counter to Sen. Drilon’s push to streamline the bureaucracy. But if it comes to a vote, I’m sure the bill will be approved because Sen. Pacquiao has the numbers. I’m a bit sad that it will happen during my time with GAB because I think we can do a lot more for boxing given the opportunity.”

Pacquiao’s push for a boxing commission stems from his long years of experience as a prizefighter. He wants to regulate the affairs of pro boxing because it has a major impact on the country, more than any other sport. It is estimated that Pacquiao himself has earned about $500 million from the sport with his success in the ring a boost to the economy. Pacquiao is not only one of the country’s top taxpayers but he has also contributed in a large way to creating job opportunities. 

“Boxing is a combat sport where fighters put their lives at risk,” said lawyer Jojo Bondoc who assists in Pacquiao’s legislative agenda. “It demands a different treatment from sports like billiards or weightlifting or shooting. A suggestion was made to include mixed martial arts under the proposed commission. However, mixed martial arts has its own peculiarities and I’m not sure if it should be regulated under the same commission as boxing.  Sen. Manny’s intention to create the commission by law is to make sure that boxing will be regulated with permanence. Take the case of GAB. We’re fortunate that chairman Mitra is now with GAB but what if it falls into the hands of someone who isn’t as competent or sincere? GAB was formed through an Administrative Order, not by law, so if ever the President decides to scrap it, nobody can stop the abolition.”

 Bondoc said Pacquiao realizes the potential of pro boxing more than anyone. “Sen. Manny is a sincere and practical man,” he said. “If there is opposition to his pet bill, he’s willing to listen and incorporate ideas to make it a more impactful law. He knows fighters can get hurt or even killed in the ring. That’s why he wants it closely monitored and regulated.

He wants the Philippines to be the boxing capital in Asia. As it is, boxers from Japan, Korea and Thailand come to our country to train with us. He wants to provide for the future of former Filipino world champions who have sacrificed so much to bring honor to our country. In the Board of the proposed commission, Sen. Manny is allocating three seats for GAB so it’s not as if GAB will be cut off from the sport.”

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A source said the recent change in the Senate’s balance of power has caused tension on the debate floor. “It appears that there is an attempt to embarrass Sen. Manny who is with the majority,” the source said. “He’s being interpellated on his pet bill like he’s undergoing a bar exam. They’ve turned it into a personal and political vendetta and unfortunately, Sen. Manny’s pet bill looks like it’s collateral damage. A simple bill is now going through a complicated debate.”

Mitra, newly designated WBC international secretary and appointed to the WBC Board of Governors, said GAB supervises 13 pro sports and of the agency’s 154 employees, 46 are involved in boxing. While Pacquiao has no beef against Mitra or GAB itself, his proposed bill will remove boxing from the government agency’s list of sports to supervise as it seeks to institutionalize the regulation of the fight game by law to provide continuity and permanence. Mitra said he poses no objection to Pacquiao’s bill and promised to work hand-in-hand with the Senator if ever the bill passes into law.

“Boxing is a peculiar sport,” said Bondoc. “It has been a rich source of pride for our countrymen and we want to continue that legacy. From sparring to deciding whether a boxer is fit to fight overseas to supervising weigh-ins to conducing medical tests to supporting boxing promotions, there are many details to supervise. Sen. Manny knows the potentials of boxing, not only for fighters themselves but also for sports tourism. Finally, there is a proposal to create a boxing commission by law that will benefit from Sen. Manny’s vast experience. Other countries like Australia and Japan are benefiting from their boxing commissions so why not us?”

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