Carlos Padilla Jr.: Lightning on a clear day

TO THE QUICK - Jerry Tundag - The Freeman

"Stricken with a much-delayed guilty conscience." "Has contracted Alzheimer's." "Is about to die." These were the characterizations that journalist and Philstar columnist Ramon Tulfo Jr. heaped on retired Filipino international boxing referee Carlos Padilla Jr. on confessing 22 years late that he cheated in a fight that allowed a heretofore still largely unknown Manny Pacquiao to win over the Australian Nedal Hussein.

I do not know if it is a trademark of people from Davao, but two things I like about Mon Tulfo, in pretty much the same way that I like and find very engaging former president Rodrigo Duterte, are the gung-ho bravado and the colorful language that seem to accompany them so naturally wherever they go. It is as if both Davaoeños were born with cloves of garlic up their rectums.

Anyway, while I admittedly was taken aback to actually find Tulfo describing Padilla in such a manner in his column, still I could not help but agree silently with his characterizations, even if I would have preferred them said in private jokes to be laughed about till we run out of breath. "Is about to die?" Wow. Only Tulfo could have said that. And yet how true it may be, given how earth-shaking the confession had been.

According to Padilla's own account, given in an interview following his elevation to the World Boxing Council Hall of Fame, he gave Pacquiao the long count after the Filipino was decked by the Australian in the seventh round to allow him to recover, and then stopped the fight in the tenth after the ring physician declared Hussein unfit to continue because of a cut Padilla said came from a legal blow instead of a head butt.

But the most damning part of the "confession" was when Padilla said he was approached before the fight by a person he did not name who pleaded with him to "help" Pacquiao so he could get a crack at a world title fight. Apparently Padilla agreed to do it. What is not clear is whether he got something in return. But that is no longer the point. What is important is he admitted to "throwing" the fight.

So what was Padilla thinking? Hussein himself, on learning about the confession, had a very interesting comment. He said it was not what Padilla admitted but how he admitted it, saying the Filipino referee was smirking and smiling as if proud of what he did. And that just about encapsulates how sordid this episode had been --the injection of the Filipino into the picture, and the nonchalance that couched everything.

If no remorse attended the confession, then just like in matters pertaining to faith and religion, there can be no absolution. Indeed, if the purpose of Padilla had been to atone and make a clean breast of it, he could have done a more sincere job confessing in private to a priest. That way his atonement attains meaning, and at the same time he spares the entire Filipino nation the burden of sharing his guilt and shame.

In his own reaction, Pacquiao is correct in saying he was not a party to whatever Padilla got himself into and was just doing his job as a boxer inside the ring. But the Filipino nation, while similarly clueless about the Padilla caper, cannot opt out of the picture as easily as Pacquiao can. As Filipinos, we cannot avoid the unnecessary stigma of being compatriots of Padilla.

Just imagine being a Filipino at a table with foreigners and the news suddenly comes on TV with Padilla "smirking and smiling" throughout his confession. If there is a teleporting moment one could wish for, it would be that moment. That Padilla came forth on his own volition deprives us of even the slightest wiggle room. We cannot claim blackmail. We cannot claim vendetta. It was just lightning on a clear day, pure and simple.


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