Carlo's Think Pieces

Reflections of a Filipino in the Netherlands

Congressman Pacquiao?

Posted by butalidnl on 9 March 2010

Boxer Manny Pacquiao is running for Congress as the Representative for Saranggani Province. With the international fame and immense popularity he has, this should be a breeze, right? Wrong. I think Pacquiao is in for another disappointing defeat in his attempt to become a Congressman.

Pacquiao is running for District Representative of Saranggani. He will be running against Roy Chiongbian, who comes from the powerful Chiongbian family which has supplied all the congressmen for Saranggani since it was formed as a province.

Pacquiao is running with the suppport of the Nacionalista Party of Manny Villar, which probably means that he is going to get financial support from Villar for his campaign. This, plus his popularity, should be enough to make him congressman, he thinks.
Well, money plus his popularity were certainly not enough when he ran against  Darlene Antonino-Custodio for the seat of the First District of South Cotabato (which includes General Santos City) in 2007.  Darlene Antonino-Custodio defeated Pacquiao handily by more than 60,000 votes.

Pacquiao says that the Chiongbians had not done anything to uplift the lives of the poor in Saranggani province during their 16 years of controlling the province.  But my question is: if he really wants to reform Saranggani, why is he running for Congress? Wouldn’t it be better to run for Governor? I guess that the reason he wants to become congressman is in order to have access to a congressman’s PDAF (otherwise known as pork barrel funds), and distribute this to benefit the poor in Saranggani. Being governor would be a fulltime job, one which he cannot combine with boxing,  but he can always be an absentee congressman.

I would think that if Pacquiao really meant to change things in Saranggani, he should really run for the governorship, and have access to the even bigger IRA (Internal Revenue Allotment)  for Saranggani province. Pacquiao, as absentee congressman, could not access enough funds to develop Saranggani. But does the Philippines need another absentee Congressman?

The elections in Saranggani will be won by the so-called “command” vote, where local leaders deliver votes for the candidate. Chiongbian has a network of local leaders who cover the province. If Pacquiao wanted to exploit his fame, he should run in the city, where the “market” (votes dependent on the media and public opinion)  votes are more prevalent. But he lost in General Santos City in 2007.

I think  that part of the reason for his 2007 defeat, and his impending 2010 defeat, is that people prefer that he remain a fulltime boxer, and not be “bothered” by being a parttime politician. And of course, Pacquiao’s lack of political machinery in a rural area is sure to go against him.

So, is it “Congessman Pacquiao” come May? Probably not.


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