Comelec can’t stop Pacquiao-Bradley fight – Bautista

Sheila Crisostomo - The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines – Commission on Elections (Comelec) Chairman Andres Bautista yesterday conceded that the poll body could not stop senatorial bet Sarangani Rep. Manny Pacquiao’s bout with American Timothy Bradley on April 9 in Las Vegas.

In a press briefing, Bautista said that in his personal opinion, it is beyond the Comelec’s jurisdiction to stop the fight.

“You have to distinguish the fight from the fact that it is being broadcast in the Philippines. Personally, I don’t think I can prohibit Pacquiao from boxing. That is his profession,” said Bautista.

He, however, maintained that the Comelec could regulate the broadcast of the fight.  

“I think we can do that because as you all know, we have some form of control, regulatory supervision over entities which have franchise during election period.

“But as to whether we can stop Pacquaio from fighting, that’s different,” he added.

The full commission discussed Pacquiao’s case in a meeting yesterday and it decided to uphold the recommendation of the law department to give him five days to comment on two letters that they received concerning the match.

“The Comelec en banc approved the recommendation of the law department that Rep. Pacquiao be directed to submit his comment to the letters of Rep. Bello and Saguisag within five days from receipt of the notice,” he said, referring to former Akbayan party-list congressman Walden Bello and former senator Rene Saguisag.

The two have sought clarification whether or not the upcoming boxing match will give Pacquiao “unfair advantage,” thus violating the Fair Elections Act.

According to Bautista, the law department had provided several “options” on how the commission could look into the case.  

One of these is Pacquiao’s boxing match with Mexican Jorge Solis in Las Vegas before the 2007 elections when he was then running for congressman of South Cotabato.

The Comelec had resolved to allow the airing of only the pre-fight sparring sessions and disallowed the broadcast of the actual bout in South Cotabato. For the rest of the country, full-broadcast was authorized.

“But again, there is a difference because at that time, Cong. Pacquiao was running for congress as opposed to now that he’s running for national office. That’s why we thought that the best recourse is to ask him to comment,” Bautista added.

The law department also took note that the upcoming fight is not a title match, unlike the one in 2007.

Saguisag asked the Comelec in his letter to “advise him (Pacquaio) to reset the fight.”

“Candidate Pacquiao had or must have known our elections will be on May 9, 2016. Therefore, for him to agree to fight in April meant he surely must have realized the value of free publicity for his first bid for national office,” he said.

Saguisag added the Comelec should “make sure that Manny does not enjoy unfair advantage by circumvention.”  

Malacañang prefers to let the Comelec decide if Pacquiao could be disqualified as a senatorial bet if his bout with Bradley pushes through.

Presidential Communications Operations Office Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. pointed out the poll body has the sole mandate to decide on such cases, especially in light of concerns that the Filipino boxing champion will have undue advantage over other candidates.

“We recognize the Comelec’s duty to regulate the candidate’s activities during the election period, and this includes Rep. Pacquiao’s scheduled fight,” he told Malacañang reporters.

Comelec commissioner Rowena Guanzon and former Comelec chairman Sixto Brillantes Jr. warned that the airing of Pacquaio’s fight, which will be on pay-per-view worldwide and not just on a national scale, puts the other senatorial candidates in a disadvantageous position.  

Brillantes, a veteran election lawyer, advised the people’s champ to postpone the fight.

Pacquiao is running for senator under the opposition United Nationalist Alliance.

Comelec spokesman James Jimenez said the poll body might have to modify its May 2007 ruling where it restricted the showing of Pacquiao’s fight with Solis, but that this was only in South Cotabato.

The commissioners are now in the process of discussing whether the ruling may still be applicable.

“In 2007, we also had the same incident and definitely, the commission is studying if it can apply in the coming boxing match,” Jimenez told reporters. – With Delon Porcalla

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