Prelude to the Presidency

Prelude to the Presidency

With battle lines drawn, President Rodrigo Duterte threatened to knock out Senator Manny Pacquiao. (Photo courtesy by Rappler)

It is my pleasure to support a candidate who truly reflects our values and highest ideals.

— Hollywood actor Martin Sheen

According to British-American anthropologist Ashley Montagu, when it comes to death, “the idea is to die young as late as possible.”

Well said since, for us, we are only passing through life and what really matters is living it to the fullest using what capabilities and talents we have amidst the hustle and bustle that is life today.

I mention this because a dear friend passed away. I never expected to hear a comrade and brother struck down by Covid-19 and it came as a surprise to learn that my good friend Melo Acuña has become the latest victim of the dreaded novel coronavirus or nCoV.

This is why I hate Covid-19. A lot of my dearest colleagues have been taken by it and I am simply saddened by the fact that we are so mortal and our lives uncertain.

Still, I grieve for Melo’s passing because I (and so do many of us) lost a valuable partner and companion in life.

In ending let me quote from American writer Albert Pike, whose words of wisdom describe what my friend Melo is to the world: “What we have done for ourselves alone dies with us; what we have done for others and the world remains and is immortal.”

My dearest friend, Melo Acuña, in good times.

WITH next year’s presidential election less than a year away and registration of candidacy to begin in October, People’s Champ Emmanuel ‘Manny’ Pacquiao—despite a heartbreaking loss to Cuban Yordenis Ugas—is pressed for time to decide if he will run or not.

But the boxing icon’s supporters and those people whom he had given help are pushing for the fighting senator to aim for the highest post of the land since they believe his rags-to-riches story could be the best experience for any president to make his leadership spell the difference from a corrupt dictator to a true leader who would consider his countrymen’s welfare first.

However, critics are saying that excelling at sport is one thing but being successful in public office is an entirely different matter. Still, the remarkable story of Manny ‘PacMan’ Pacquiao has indeed touched and inspired many Filipinos to dream big. They seem like somebody who is close to their hearts as Pacman came from a poor family in General Santos, Mindanao, and through determination and perseverance, he is now one of the country’s billionaires and prominent politicians, making his life proof that nothing is impossible with hard work and dedication.

At age 15, Pacquiao moved to Manila and lived on the streets while working as a construction worker. He did not finish high school because of poverty and decided to take his chance while living with his uncle who taught him how to box. From there, he traveled from one city to another to earn an honest buck by fighting in amateur boxing competitions during town fiestas.

This situation led him to persevere in his craft—there was money in boxing and he was good at it so he dedicated his time to earning money from it.

But it was not a ‘walk in the park’ as the money earned was always hard-fought. There was in fact a time when he would have quit boxing after he was felled by then upstart Rustico Torrecampo—the first man to defeat the would-be eight-division world champion.

And while fighting in the ring and winning world titles from lightweight to welterweight, Pacquiao pursued other ambitions outside boxing by entering politics. In 2010, he won a seat in the House of Representatives as representative of Sarangani province. Three years later, he was re-elected after running unopposed.

In 2016, he was elected a senator after garnering 16 million votes, coming seventh among 12 new members of the Senate.

The year 2019 saw Pacquiao listed by Forbes magazine as the 92nd highest-paid sportsman in the world with a net worth of US$26 million based on his winnings and endorsements. In March 2021, boxing pundits said Pacquiao was the world’s third-richest boxer behind Floyd Mayweather Jr. and George Foreman with a net worth of US$220 million.

And now another ambition is being eyed by the People’s Champ with the presidential elections just around the corner and registration of candidacy beginning this coming October (1-8, 2021). Pacquiao believes his election to the country’s highest office is written in the stars: “I’m destined to be there,” he told Sports Illustrated in a recent interview.

But the more important question is leading a nation the same as boxing? And should Pacquiao’s battles remain in the ring or should he bring them into the political arena?

Our Constitution stipulates: “No person may be elected president unless he is a natural-born citizen of the Philippines, a registered voter, able to read and write, is at least 40 years of age on the day of the election, and a resident of the Philippines for at least 10 years immediately preceding such election.”

In terms of academic qualification, the constitution merely requires the president to be able to read and write. The constitution only sets the minimum requirements, yet the complexity and intricacy of the office surely require higher qualifications.

Again we question Pacquiao’s qualifications. But setting this aside, what our country needs now is a leader who has the ability to unite rather than someone who divides the nation with bigotry. Can our fight senator do that?

With a ballooning international debt brought by the pandemic, the Philippines also needs a president who will lead health and economic experts in dealing with the desperate situation of our people.

So what our country actually needs is a policymaker equipped with skills to restore democracy and respect human rights. And a good president is not a puppet. His actions will not be manipulated by oligarchs or friends around him who compete for his attention and affirmation.

According to the Athenian thinker Plato, only philosopher-kings must rule. A philosopher-king, he added, is the only person who can be trusted to rule well because he is morally and intellectually suited to rule: morally because he is capable of appreciating abstract concepts like justice, fairness and truth, and intellectually because he alone can separate fact from fiction, freeing his mind from impurities that tarnish the soul. (ai/mtvn)

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