By Ado Paglinawan
Emmanuel Pacquiao follows a long line of wannabes who from unique beginnings made a bid to lead the nation. Most cases, however, has ended in tragedy.
The first that jots out of my memory is Ramon Magsaysay. An automobile mechanic by profession, Magsaysay was appointed military governor of Zambales after his outstanding service as a guerrilla leader during the Second World War. This was followed by two terms as congressman for Zambales before being appointed Secretary of National Defense by President Elpidio Quirino.
He was elected president in 1953 but he would die in a plane crash nine months before the end of his term.
Rogelio de la Rosa, the iconic macho in the silver screen of the 1950s. After three years in the Senate, de la Rosa decided to run for the presidency as an independent candidate in 1957. Shortly before election day, de la Rosa withdrew from the election.
De la Rosa was defeated for re-election to the Senate in the 1963 general elections. He would never again be elected to public office.
Joseph Ejercito Estrada gained popularity as a film actor, playing the lead role in over a hundred films in an acting career spanning some three decades.
He used his popularity as an actor to make gains in politics, serving as mayor of San Juan for 17 years, as Senator for 5 years, and vice president for six years.
Estrada was elected president in 1998, however, allegations of corruption spawned an impeachment trial in the Senate, and in 2001 Estrada was ousted by “People Power 2”.
In 2007, Estrada was sentenced by a special division of the Sandiganbayan to reclusión perpetua for the plunder of $80 million from the government, but was later granted pardon by President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo. He ran for president in 2010 but lost, with political career ended after losing his bid for a third term in 2019 as mayor of Manila.
Another actor by initial calling, Fernando Poe Jr. appeared in around 300 films spanning from 1955 to 2003. Poe ran for president of the Philippines in the 2004 election but lost. Seven months after the elections, after nursing a terrible depression following his loss, he died of a stroke.
Hundreds of thousands attended his wake and queued the streets for a glimpse of his funeral hearst.
Pacquiao is best known for winning 62 of his 72 boxing bouts, earning the ultimate title of the Pambansang Kamao. On 2007, in a mad rush to jumpstart his political ambition, he ran for Congress to represent the first district of South Cotabato but lost.
He tried again in 2010, this time in another province, winning two terms. But because of other commitments, Pacquiao only attended one session on the final leg of the 16th Congress and was criticized for being the top absentee among lawmakers. Despite his poor attendance and low number of bills filed, he still won a seat in the 2016 senatorial elections, where he also became a frequent absentee.
In this column I have not relied alone in my own wisdom, but others’ as well.
Last August 30, the Manila Times came out with an editorial, entitled “Pacquiao better off respecting his limits”.
It started with an anecdotal quote of Bill Gates that Senator Emmanuel “Manny” Pacquiao should reflect on as he comes to terms with losing to an undercard fighter. The billionaire Microsoft founder said, “It’s fine to celebrate success, but it’s more important to heed the lessons of failure.”
The Times explained the term undercard fighter: “Mr. Pacquiao was supposed to fight Errol Spence Jr., the unified welterweight champion. But Spence backed out because of an eye injury, and so, the Cuban boxer, Yordenis Ugas, whose credentials pale in comparison with the Filipino champion’s, stepped in as a last-minute replacement.
“As we have repeatedly said, Mr. Pacquiao should have retired from boxing but not because he cannot compete anymore. Instead, he does not have anything else to prove. He deserves to enjoy his fame and fortune now.
“In fact, we had predicted that if he were to lose, political distractions may well be to blame given his ongoing spat with President Rodrigo Duterte. Competing at the highest level demands mental focus, but going into his last fight, Mr. Pacquiao had politics on his mind.
“Juggling boxing and politics seem difficult if not impossible. And judging by how Mr. Pacquiao fared in Las Vegas recently, there may be physical harm in trying… for boxers, Mr. Pacquiao seems too old at age 42. Mr. Pacquiao’s record is already remarkable anyway; worthy of the boxing hall of fame. His rags-to-riches story is also iconic. People might point out that he should be satisfied to be among the greatest in boxing history.
“Senator Pacquiao might be better off knowing his limits in politics as well. His achievements in the political arena are also impressive.
“His rise to the halls of power was not without defeat… Now, Mr. Pacquiao has his sights on a higher office. Of course, the beauty of democracy is that anyone can be president, but that is not the same thing as saying that anyone should be the leader of the republic.”
The newspaper editorial advised the senator to revisit the story of Icarus.
“In Greek mythology, Icarus and his father, Daedalus, escaped from imprisonment in Crete by making wings that enabled them to fly.
“Daedalus warned his son not to fly too low as the sea would dampen the wings and make them too heavy. He also cautioned against flying too high, because the sun would melt the wax holding the feathers together.
“But Icarus was ecstatic in flight, and he flew too high. He felt like a god, and to people on the ground, Icarus looked like one.
“As Daedalus had warned, the sun melted the wings of Icarus, and he plummeted to his death. The lesson here is; know your limits. Hubris can have consequences.”
John Rana and I met in the thick of the presidential campaign of Fidel Ramos for president after President Corazon Aquino drafted me in the final months to strategically intervene after his campaign manager Peter Garrucho and media bureau chief Rafael Alunan II could not put him back on the survey tracks after the Secretary of National Defense made a mysterious trip to Zurich in the middle of his campaign, reminiscent of the nursery rhyme:
“Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall, Humpty Dumpty had a great fall. All the king’s horses and all the king’s men. Couldn’t put Humpty together again”.
John and I agree most of the time, but in our moments of disagreement, we take the blows as adults engaged in search of wisdom.
Today, I chanced at one of his posts at Facebook. And I agree with most of what he said, so I am also borrowing his words:
“PACQUIAO A MANCHURIAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE?
“I posted earlier that Pacquiao should not run for president because he is ill-prepared for the huge responsibility. I do not question the purity of his motives. But the road to perdition is paved with good intentions.
“Earlier, I opined that Senator Pacquiao may get the best and the brightest to run the country BUT the buck stops with the President. The dilemma for any leader is how to resolve, reconcile and harmonize conflicting positions, interests and priorities.
“The final decision rests with the President alone. That requires critical thinking and great managerial skills that can only be acquired over time with notable results. Being popular and great in boxing are not the best credentials to run a country.
“A Manchurian candidate is one who wittingly or unwittingly undermines the chances of other candidates by taking away votes from them. The term came from the 1959 novel of Richard Condon of the same title. It was about a platoon of decorated US soldiers returning from the Korean War but were brainwashed to believe in communism.
“Pacquiao for whatever reason now believes he is the savior of the nation by becoming president.
“I still hope and pray that Senator Manny Pacquiao does not destroy himself. He already overestimated his power in the fight against Ugas.
“The battle for the presidency may turn out to be an even bigger disaster and humiliation.”
However, I disagree that Pacquiao has the basic discernment, despite the spirituality he claims he got after crashing with a few Biblical lines, to make the right decisions, starting with getting “the best and the brightest to run the country”.
Discernment is the capability to see what forces are at work in a given situation. He terribly lacks that.
In fact in the rathole that he is in right now, it is obvious that he is being used by Koko to grab power that the Pimentels never achieved by themselves.
Reinforced by two billionaire congressmen Albee Benitez and Mikee Romero who are noveau riche figures hoping to build their own oligopolies in a Pacquiao air-castle presidency, the Pacquaio campaign started on the wrong foot fueled by the mediocrity of rookies Ron Munsayac and Bernard Peralta.
Koko’s cordon sanitaire is so dense, many of his early supporters have already abandoned the boxer-senator, including another political party accredited by the Comelec, a religious community and many business and volunteer citizens groups.
The dissatisfaction came from this Fort-Knox campaign team wanting to oust Rodrigo Roa Duterte, first from the party PDP-Laban that Koko regards as his sole-proprietorship, and then from the residency even before his term ends.
The blurbs that Pacquiao has been mouthing reflects the “Laban” mentality and culture that was popularized by Ninoy Aquino and Koko’s father Nene Pimentel against former President Ferdinand Marcos.
Violently accusatory, demonizing and caustic with shibolleths, motherhood statements and sweeping generalizations that have no appreciable basis in fact or principle.
In short plain Machiavellian. Bordering on anarchism.
Packed with delirious propaganda, extremely divisive in the midst of a pandemic.
This is why many are asking even if Pacquiao and Pimentel hurt Duterte, would the voters who have shown more sensitivity to solutions in the 2016 presidential elections prefer from an array of the more qualified, other than name recall, their type of leadership to succeed the incumbent?
OMGee, our politicians have more problem for every solution.