Pacquiao on corruption: Look who's talking

TO THE QUICK - Jerry Tundag - The Freeman

Is Senator Manny Pacquiao correct in his claim of corruption in the Duterte government? Of course he is. The Philippines is one of the most corrupt countries in the world. Transparency International places us at 115 among 180 countries in its latest world corruption perception index, with 1 being the least corrupt and 180 the most corrupt. We do not really need Pacquiao to tell us now what we have known since probably the 1970s.

What we do need from Pacquiao is an honest answer as to how much of his newfound realization of what is going on and his avowed desire to clean up what he has seen is born of a real conviction to straighten up the actions of government, or simply out of pique at being derailed in his drive toward the presidency.

Pacquiao could not have stumbled upon bureaucratic corruption only last month when he started making noise about the Duterte government, the very same month that it became clear he was not going to get the president's blessing in his bid for Malacañang. He certainly had all the time in the world to do some investigating since 2010 when he first entered politics as a congressman from Sarangani.

But we heard not a peep from Pacquiao. Did he turn a blind eye to all the corruption that was evidently already there? Did he decide to just play along for as long as it did not interfere with his political interests? Again, Pacquiao is absolutely correct about corruption. And it is good that he would do some investigating. If only the timing had not been so suspicious, so suspicious in fact that his motives are as suspect as the corruption itself.

Take the COVID "ayuda" he is focusing on. Ever since the first ayuda shortly after the lockdowns in March 2020, people were already complaining about the distribution, the suspicion being that a lot of the money clearly went into the pockets of corrupt officials. That was more than a year ago but where was Pacquiao then? But of course presidential plans at the time were still uncertain.

Corruption does not involve only those who actually pocket stolen money. Equally guilty and as much to blame are those who simply turn the other cheek. In fact they are far more reprehensible if, after playing along, they suddenly become moral crusaders for no other reason than that they have been disturbed in their interests.

When Pacquiao fought Floyd Mayweather in 2015, he was not 100%. By his own admission, he fought with an injured shoulder. People paid through the nose for that fight, the most expensive in history, for what they thought would be an experience of a lifetime. But Pacquiao did not give a damn about cheating the people of their expectations. He was blinded by his $100 million purse, which could be jeopardized if he owned up injury.

Pacquiao is perhaps the greatest boxer of all time. That does not make him the greatest in everything. But apparently he thinks otherwise. The guy wants to go into everything. He plays and coaches pro basketball (ugh), acts in movies (ho hum), records songs (bwa ha ha). Now he wants to be president. Who else does he want to be next? God?

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