Sen. Manny Pacquiao (left) and President Duterte (right)
By F. Sionil Jose
It is two years away from the next national elections but many hopefuls have already positioned themselves – among them the bright young mayors of Metro Manila. Above them all hovers Manny Pacquiao. He has already announced his candidacy – not all that publicly – and already, too, opposition to his ambition has been voiced. As a boxing icon, is he qualified?
What really are the qualifications of a presidential candidate? Were Cory Aquino and her son qualified? Yes, Marcos was very qualified – but look at what he did to this country. He is precisely the best argument against those so-called brilliant politicians who want to be President.
First – Manny has money for the campaign. He does not have to scrounge for funds; and every peso of his money was earned, his body punished for it.
Second – Manny is intelligent; to be where he is, he trained very hard, disciplined himself, and studied himself, his opponents, their strengths and weaknesses. His response, powered by this intelligence, is automatic and quick.
Third – he rose from the depths of poverty, he knew what hunger only too well, that poverty is our people’s most serious problem. How to abolish it, I hope, is his first priority. I hear that his vices are few, affordable and riddable.
Fourth – Manny has found faith and religion which give him moral strength and direction. He is now a Senator; he is exposed to the realities of political power, how it is acquired, how it can be abused. I hope this Senate experience has illustrated to him who are the real enemies of the Filipino people, who made them poor. The oligarchy – I hope that deep in his heart and mind he understands this – that to erase poverty in this country, it is necessary to destroy, emasculate or change this oligarchy and to neutralize their political allies.
Remember always that these politicians and their allies in the oligarchy are Filipinos like ourselves, they are “very nice” people, with polished social graces. Flattery works for them; it is necessary for a Filipino leader to know how to navigate in these quiet but dangerous waters and remain true to one’s self and ideals. People in power are easy victims of flattery and adulation. If criticized, I hope Manny will not be over sensitive; he should take criticism as body blows which strengthen rather than cripple.
Change your mind-set
The boxer, as an athlete, is autonomous. With his trainer as his only companion, he enters the ring to fight alone, make instant decisions. It is not so in being a leader of a nation. He cannot know everything and decide alone. Leaders should know their limitations. Ramon Magsaysay, our best President ever, knew only so much – he surrounded himself with learned advisers and reversed himself quickly as advised if he made wrong decisions. Real, inward humility is one of the most important qualities of a leader. For someone used to so much independence, Manny needs to understand this necessary change and adaptation and the compelling need to identify good friends and advisers.
To modernize this country, Manny needs people, organization, the loyalty of the military, the middle class, ordinary citizens and the very young. He does not need to join a political party; he can form one himself now. If he joins a party, it should be clear to those party bigwigs that Manny doesn’t owe them anything; this is what Duterte proclaimed when he made his first national address – he owed the traditional politicos nothing. All that he owes is from the people who shall have voted for him.
He needs to know now the hundred best people in the country, particularly from his age level – the best professionals who can help him with good advice in government, business, politics, and foreign relations. From this group, he will select his cabinet members. They are the public pillars of his government. A second tier of leaders will include older people, they will form his “kitchen cabinet” working silently in the background. This early, he should recognize his so-called “friends” and allies who are for themselves and not for the people. It is difficult to do this, but it is an absolute necessity; if he has to protect himself and his government from internal rot.
Now, his priority is to build a national organization – an informal one if need be. Know people, perspective leaders in all sectors. Who are the cultural workers, the educators, the professionals whom he knows?
Manny loves his popularity; he revels in the spotlight and the front pages. He must be ready to accept that this adulation will also diminish as he ages. What he leaves behind will be greater than himself. Manny Pacquiao has a lot of physical courage. I hope he has moral courage, too.