Is his honeymoon with the Philippine press over?
Barely has Manny Pacquiao savored his sweet return to boxing spotlight with a masterful win over Brandon Rios in Macau, and he is now finding himself up against one of life’s inevitabilities – the taxman. Or the tax woman in this case.
Just a couple of days after he flew into the Philippines following his dramatic win in Macau, Pacquiao himself announced that his bank accounts were lightened the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) for P2.2 billion ($50 million) in tax obligations he reportedly owed in 2008 and 2009.
Five years ago, BIR’s Kim Henares would have already been ‘slaughtered’ for unsettling the national icon. Had Henares been Arroyo’s top revenue officer then, she would have been fired already no doubt.
Pacquiao, as we all know, was a Palace favorite for close to a decade. He even has a direct line to disgraced President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo. Apparently, that isn’t the case anymore with Malacañang’s new tenant.
Five years ago, it would have been unthinkable for anybody to humiliate him for a possible Al Capone caper. Much more coming off a victory that has lifted the spirit of a Filipino nation that is reeling from three consecutive tragedies – the Zamboanga siege, the Bohol earthquake and the devastation of Typhoon Yolanda.
But for the first time, the people now seemed to be divided over the issue of Pacquiao’s tax obligations. He is even slowly becoming a polarizing issue in himself.
What many failed to appreciate is that the BIR has been hot on Pacquiao’s money trail since two years ago. And if I remember it right, the regional office of BIR in Soccsksargen even sued him for ignoring his tax summons early in 2012.
Pacquiao’s intransigence may be getting the better of him this time.
You do not go swinging for the fences when it is the taxman’s time to knock at your door.
And this is what is unsettling Pacquiao now. If he gets careless, he could strike himself out of the game.
But out of this mini-saga, a little known and thus little reported side of Pacquiao is emerging. One who has no compunction whatsoever to use his carefully built image to do away with some of his acts of commission and omission.
Many in his circle of friends and advisers may have been responsible for the tax mess he is in right now, but Pacquiao isn’t willing to let the axe fall on them. An act that points to a flawed sense of loyalty and friendship.
At some point, however, Pacquiao has to admit some of the blame.
Remember how he tried very hard to cultivate the ‘Godfather’ persona when he once posed – complete with the hat and cigar and the dark setting reminiscent of Marlon Brando’s iconic image? Remember how he fancied people to call him ‘Ninong’ in his defunct television show where he gave away cash to lucky live viewers?
That mob fascination could haunt him – Al Capone was jailed for tax evasion, and eventually died in prison.
Certainly, nobody wants to see Pacquiao go out that way.
But he must now realize that unless he puts his house in order, the press will become more discriminating and discerning with their stories about him. The honeymoon may well be over for Pacquiao.