Manny says focus is overdue
Joaquin M. Henson (The Philippine Star) - October 24, 2020 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — Super WBA welterweight champion Sen. Manny Pacquiao has made an impassioned appeal to support the creation of the Philippine Boxing and Combat Sports Commission, citing his experience in explaining why it’s necessary and timely to establish a body that will provide a sharp focus on the welfare and development of fighters.

“I’ve been involved in boxing almost half of my life,” said Pacquiao during a recent public hearing to discuss Senate Bills Nos. 193 and 805, both seeking to create the commission. “I was an amateur fighter at 12 and a pro at 16. I ask you to understand a boxer’s feelings. Based on my experience as a boxer, I know how difficult it is in our sport and why it’s important to establish a separate commission to address our concerns.” Pacquiao noted the significance of institutionalizing a system through a commission to protect the welfare of fighters and to promote their development.

Pacquiao said at present, the Games and Amusements Board (GAB) has the mandate to supervise and regulate professional boxing and combat sports. “This is not an attack on GAB,” he stressed. “In fact, I commend GAB chairman Baham Mitra and commissioners Mar Masanguid and Ed Trinidad for their accomplishments. This is not to discredit them for their sacrifice and hard work. But I believe it’s long overdue to create a commission to focus on our sport and help our boxers and combatants in their careers. This is not about personalities, this is about institutionalizing structural reform.” Pacquiao said the lack of continuity and consistency in GAB’s leadership, which has no tenure of office, is a pitfall that will be eliminated by the commission.

Pacquiao’s chief legal officer Atty. Jojo Bondoc said it is intended for the commission to function beyond supervision and regulation. He drew a parallel in explaining the rationale of establishing a separate commission for horseracing by law. Because GAB is not empowered to promote, the government created an ad hoc committee to organize the Thrilla In Manila in 1975. The commission is envisioned to stage blockbuster events in line with the function of promoting the development of professional boxing and combat sports. Once it’s off the ground, the commission is expected to be self-sufficient.

Mitra said GAB supervises 13 professional sports on an annual government budget of P120 million and compared it to the P150 million allocation for the proposed commission. He argued that in these difficult times, it may not be prudent to put up a P150 million fund for a new commission. Instead, he recommended the GAB to continue working on reforms in professional boxing and combat sports. In the public hearing, Mitra presented GAB’s achievements, including the coordination with government agencies to provide relief for fighters and combatants during this pandemic. Under Mitra’s administration, GAB has received high ratings from COA and recognition from the WBC for its work. Mitra has also played a key role in restarting professional sports through his participation in the IATF-sanctioned JAO team.

During the public hearing, PSC commissioner Celia Kiram sent a statement declaring the agency’s support of Pacquiao’s efforts in institutionalizing programs and benefits for athletes while Department of Tourism assistant secretary Roberto Alabado said promoting events in professional boxing and combat sports is a boost to domestic and international tourism. Boxing manager Liza Elorde backed the creation of a commission because it will be a big step in opening the doors of opportunity for fighters. What Pacquiao is doing to promote the careers of fighters, including Johnriel Casimero, Jerwin Ancajas, Mark Magsayo and Eumir Marcial in this pandemic will be institutionalized in the commission particularly as now more than ever, they need assistance.

Philippine Boxing Promoters and Managers Association president Dante Almario said he supports Mitra’s administration. He has been involved in boxing for about 40 years. “Nakikita ko ang pagmamalasakit ni Chairman Mitra,” he said. “Ginagawa niya ang lahat para sa kabutihan ng mga boxers at pag-improve ng officiating.” Mitra conducts a weekly virtual “Kamustahan” meeting with boxing stakeholders. URCC founder and NSA president for wrestling Alvin Aguilar said he is thankful to GAB and Pacquiao for their efforts and will support whatever is best for professional boxing and combat sports.

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