It is sad and ironic that Filipino boxing superstar Manny Pacquiao is unwisely using his wealth in trying to raise the hopes of poor residents of Sarangani.
No, this is not about Manny’s well-chronicled philanthropic ways and his desire to give back to the poor with the financial success he achieved while breaking his beak in the cruel sport of boxing.
Manny is setting a bad case of how the poor cannot ever hope to win in the election or, worse still, proving that the poor have no place in Philippine politics except to resign themselves as recipient of the benevolence of their rich patrons.
That Manny has the purest of intention, having tasted what it is like not to eat three square meals a day, should not be questioned in his second attempt to win a seat in Philippine Congress.
But as they say, the road to perdition is full of good intention.
Manny is unconsciously proving to all and sundry that politics is the exclusive domain of the rich by overspending beyond what is allowed and required just to win in the May 10 elections. Win or lose, Manny has reinforced that perception, nay norm.
Henceforth, nobody will ever win an election in Sarangani without outrageously spending and scandalously displaying his opulence.
In 2007, it was reported that Manny spent well over Php100 million ($2.5 million) in his losing effort against Rep. Darlene Antonino Custodio in nearby General Santos City.
That is close to Php 600 ($13.50) per registered voter in General Santos – well above the P5 per voter set by the Omnibus Election Law.
Manny says he learned from his lesson in that costly debacle, but it seems the lesson learnt is to spend even more.
His camp has been bragging that Manny is willing to fork up to Php400 million ($10 million) to emerge victorious this time.
That is a ridiculous Php1,800 per voter in Sarangani’s 227,000 registered voters.
Insiders from his camp also revealed that he already equaled what he spent in General Santos City even before he left in January this year to train against Joshua Clottey whom he beat last March 14. If these reports are true, Manny is right on the track, spending-wise.
Manny is following the lead of his choice for the president who goes by his namesake – Manny Villar. Both profess they came from poor families and know what it is to wallow in a sea of garbage (pun intended). Both want to change the country’s political landscape and yet they are spending more than what traditional politicians have ever spent before.
In 2007, it was estimated that a presidential candidate needed at least Php2 billion to have a shot at winning the election. For a senatorial candidate, it was Php200 million. And for a congressional candidate, something like P20 to 50 million.
The two Mannys are upping that ante. And they hope the people will vote for them because of their money and grandiose promises. Somebody better remind them that elections in the Philippines are nothing but a peaceful means to resolve the contradictions between and among the ruling elite.
It is never about liberating the poor from the bondage of poverty. Otherwise, the Philippines would have been a progressive and industrialized country by now, ahead of the rest of Southeast Asia.
After all, somebody told us we are Asia’s “oldest democracy”.