As the Philippine is ahead of the US by 15 hours in the international time zone, on August 21 — the nation would be commemorating it for Senator Benigno “Ninoy” Aquino Jr. who was assassinated 38 years ago on the said month and day.
But in Las Vegas, before August 21 lapses, Philippine senator and speculated presidential hopeful Manny Pacquiao would either lose or win against his Cuban opponent Yordenis Ugas for the WBA super welterweight title.
Whatever happens in the fight, is of course, nothing comparable to the martyrdom of Senator Aquino — which eventually led to the downfall of the regime of President Ferdinand Marcos. But winning or losing in the said fight, could affect Pacquiao’s political strength when he comes home to face off with his new-found political enemies.
Space has begun to open between Pacquiao and President Rodrigo Duterte ahead of next year’s presidential election. And as Pacquiao trained here in Los Angeles, he was at the receiving end of Duterte’s tirades who threatened to expose the boxing icon as a liar.
“When you are a champion in boxing, it does not mean to say that you are a champion in politics,” Duterte said in an news briefing last month.
This prompted one of his allies, former legislator Monico Puentevella, to call for a “ceasefire” arguing that Pacquiao should be momentarily spared from politics as he prepared to fight in Las Vegas — purportedly because his win is tantamount to pride for the entire country.
As this developed, there were also talks about the possibility of Pacquiao being expelled from the Partido Demokratikong Pilipino-Lakas ng Bayan (PDP-Laban).
Pacquiao’s detractors claimed that the senator-boxer is allegedly converting his regional party The People’s Champ Movement (PCM) into a national party.
The Philippine media reported that the group of Energy Secretary Alfredo Cusi, who has wrestled the PDP-Laban’s presidency from Pacquiao, has said that turning PCM into a national party was a ground for expulsion from the said political party.
Pacquiao has supported the Duterte government’s war on drugs in the face of condemnation from international rights groups. However, since talks about his possible presidential run began circulating, Pacquiao has started to criticize Duterte’s record on government corruption and lack of assertiveness toward China.
In a related development, a week before Pacquiao’s team headed to Las Vegas, on a Saturday (August 7), the so-called Manny Pacquiao for President Movement (MPPM) held a prayer rally titled: For God and Country, Laban Pacman Laban.
One of the rally organizers, Lee Marinduque — who is from the Philippines, told Weekend Balita that their group is not being financed by any Philippine politician. He claimed that the movement was formed and being stimulated by Filipinos, expatriates and former Filipino citizens who believe that Pacquiao’s impoverished beginning and deep faith in God could lead to a great political leadership that would help the country’s poor.
“Nakita naman natin na maraming marurunong diyan na naka upo pero wala naman ginawa para sa tao kundi pansarili lang nila,” Marinduque explained.
Another speaker in the prayer rally, Atty. Ramoncito Ocampo from Los Angeles, told the crowd that Pacquiao is a “man of destiny.” In an apparent attempt to defend Pacquiao from detractors who are frowning upon the senator’s lack of college degree, the lawyer compared Pacquiao to David who the Bible said was a shepherd who became king of Israel.
Another speaker enumerated the qualifications written down in the Philippine Constitution required from a prospective president of the republic, namely; being a natural born citizen of the Philippines, a registered voter, a person who can read and write, a person who is 40 years old and a resident of the Philippines for 10 years before the elections.
“Wala pong hinihingi na kailangan college graduate,” the speaker told the crowd.