MANILA - An election lawyer believes world boxing champion Manny Pacquiao cannot be disqualified from running in the May senatorial race on the grounds of his upcoming megabout with Timothy Bradley.
Speaking to radio DZMM, Atty. Romulo Macalintal countered the claim of senatorial hopeful Walden Bello that Pacquiao will exceed the allowed airtime of candidates if he pursues the fight on April 9.
READ: Pacquiao urged: Postpone match or face disqualification
Macalintal argued that the anticipated bout is not a political ad but a newsworthy athletic match.
"Iyung kanyang exposure, kung sakali, iyan ay newsworthy event na hindi designed para maging isang political advertisement," he said.
"Isa iyang balita na dapat talagang inilalabas sa print media at saka sa broadcast. Kaya wala akong makitang sinasabing ground for disqualification."
Macalintal also added that the fight will be held in Las Vegas. Philippine law, he said, has no jurisdiction over alleged election offenses committed abroad.
"Sa ilalim ng ating Revised Penal Code, kapag ang isang ginawa mong aksyon ay nangyari sa ibang bansa, walang jurisdiction ang Pilipinas tungkol sa sinasabing alleged election offense," the lawyer said.
Macalintal added that Pacquiao could not be held liable if media outlets will carry the bout because he did not sign any agreement requiring coverage of the event.
"Kung si Manny Pacquiao, walang pinipirmahang dokumento na nagsasabing ipalabas ninyo ito, wala siyang liability dahil ang may liability, kung sakali man, ay ang media outfit," Macalintal said.
"Sa Omnibus Election Code, kung may magpapalabas ng isang advertisement para sa isang kandidato, dapat iyung kandidato, mayroon acceptance, pinayagan niyang iyun ay ipalabas. Kung hindi niya pinayagan, anong magiging liability niya doon e hindi naman siya ang nag-authorize na magpalabas doon?"
Macalintal also said that it is up to the boxing icon's camp to seek a postponement of the match if he thinks he will receive undue media mileage.
Media networks, meanwhile, may need to consult with lawyers about the possible repercussions of covering the match, Macalintal said said.
But the lawyer noted that even the Commission on Elections admitted that the issue falls on a gray area. Without a formal complaint, the poll body cannot simply bar the media from airing the event.
"Siguro dapat pag-aralan muna iyan. Hindi pwedeng sabihin kaagad ng Comelec, moto proprio, itigil niyo iyan. Baka naman violation iyun ng freedom of the press and expression," he said.
Comelec Chair Andres Bautista has tasked their lawyers to look into Pacquiao's case.
Bautista also said Bello can file a case if he wants the poll body to address the issue.
Pacquiao earlier came under fire for branding people in same-sex relationships as "worse than animals." Sportswear giant Nike also dropped him as an endorser, saying the boxer's comments are abhorrent.
The boxing champ has since apologized for his remarks but affirmed that he opposes same-sex marriage.