Thursday, May 10, 2007

Pacman the Politician

Manny Pacquiao: Boxing Hero, National Icon... Politician?

Jorge Solis falls in eight rounds to the whirlwind of oddly angled ferocious hooks, upper cuts, and never-ending combinations launched by the
Tasmanian Devil of boxing known as Pacman.

Manny "Pacman" Pacquiao is a national hero of the Philippines who has toppled dozens of contenders, including legendary Mexican fighters Erik Morales and Antonio Barrera, with his flurries of non-stop punches that drop his opponents to the canvas (his current record is 44 wins, 3 losses, and 3 draws).

Pacquiao vs. Solis- Sunday, April 15th, 2007 in San Antonio, Texas

In the Philippines you can see Pacman in advertisements ranging from karaoke machines to ice cream, soy sauce to socks, sports drinks to beer (including a
new commercial with former rival Erik Morals). In short, his smiling mug is plastered on just about any billboard space available. A Pacquiao fight is like an undeclared national holiday in the Philippines. The country shuts down, the streets are empty, and everyone is huddled next to their television sets anxious to see their chosen son bring one more victory home for the pride of the Philippines. When he returns from fights Pacquiao is greeted by screaming fans and politicians alike and treated like royalty. He is also sent congratulatory messages from the president.

The new San Miguel Beer commercial starring Manny Pacquiao and Erik Morales

On a sunny Sunday morning in April I watch the Pacquiao-Solis fight in a packed movie theater. The audience cheers with each Pacquiao punch and gasps as his opponent, the relatively unknown but previously undefeated Mexican fighter Jorge Solis (32 wins, 2 draws prior to the fight), connects with his own punches. More details on the fight from ESPN.

After Pacquiao is announced the winner to his adoring masses, the lights have dimmed, and the gloves are cut off, Pacman must now prepare for a different kind of fight. Manny
is running for a congressional seat in his hometown of General Santos City, Mindanao in the upcoming May 14th election. The opposition candidate for reelection, Rep. Darlene Antonino Custodio, is the youngest legislator in the country and a member of one of the elite political families from Mindanao.

Darlene Antonino Custodio- Pacman's competition

With political and financial power hanging in the balance, elections in the Philippines are a dirty business.

From In Asia:
Though the highest office in the land is not on the ballot, citizens will vote for 17,889 different positions at different levels: Senators (twelve elected nationwide), Members of Congress (both district and party list), provincial governors, vice governors, and board members, and city or municipal mayors, vice mayors, and councilors.
From Reuters:
So far [in 2007], 95 people have been killed since campaigning started in January, including two gunned down last month when police acting as bodyguards for rival politicians exchanged fire at a road block. In the 2004 presidential elections, 189 people were killed and 279 wounded.

"Elections in the Philippines have always been violent," said Benjamin Lim, political science professor at Ateneo de Manila University, adding mid-term polls were more bloody due to intense rivalry among local politicians. "The stakes are much higher. If they lose, they will lose prestige, money and connections because political offices have been a source of good income for our politicians."

Recently Pacquiao has openly accused Ms. Custodio's camp of offering P 100 million (2.1 million US) to have him killed, a charge which Ms. Custodio vehemently denies. Pacquiao has responded by doubling the size of his personal security detail and rallying the support of actors and entertainers for his candidacy.

As election day draws closer, please browse the following articles to get a taste of the cult of Pacquiao, his entry into politics, and the inevitable drama of election season in the Philippines:

  1. Pacland- The Official Manny Pacquiao Website
  2. In the Philippines: The Build-up to May 14th Elections (In Asia)
  3. Election Violence Escalating in the Philippines (Intl. Herald Tribune)
  4. Pacquiao Announces His Decision to Enter Politics (The Manila Bulletin)
  5. Pacquiao Accuses Political Rival of Assassination Plot (GMA News)
  6. Rumor of Pacquiao Ambush Spreads (GMA News)
  7. Pacquiao Hires Additional Security (ABS-CBN News)
  8. Pacquiao Supporter Switches Sides (GMA News)
  9. Split Personality: Pacman vs. Politician (The Manila Times)
  10. Election Season Violence In the Philippines (Reuters)
  11. Yet Another Victim Linked to May 14th Elections (Asia News)

Ready, get set, vote!

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