MANILA - After losing a Nike endorsement deal over his anti-LGBT remarks, senatorial candidate and world boxing champion Manny Pacquiao is facing another challenge: possible disqualification in the 2016 race because of his megabout with Timothy Bradley.
Speaking on Mornings@ANC, senatorial hopeful Walden Bello said Pacquiao must voluntarily postpone his boxing match with Bradley on April 9 or he will be liable for disqualification in the 2016 elections.
"I think that Manny is facing a number of problems, not only his remarks but he can't have this fight on April 9. This is against the [Commission on Elections] rules," Bello said.
"We're asking him at this point to postpone his fight because otherwise, he'll be disqualified," he added.
Citing a provision in the new implementing rules and regulations of the Fair Elections Act, Bello said if Pacquiao will pursue the fight he will exceed the allowed airtime of 120 minutes in every television station and 180 minutes in every radio station.
“The Comelec made these rules about the range of political advertisements including news spots, appearing in all of these different shows in which basically they said that if the candidate is the center piece of all these spots, that cannot be allowed because that should be strictly within the Comelec hour, the 120 and the 180,” he said.
Bello said Pacquiao's upcoming fight gives him massive free coverage that is not enjoyed by other candidates.
"Even before the fight, all the buildup, all the interviews, during the fight, the pay per view, which will be all through the country and then after the fight, all of that. These are tremendous advantages being given to one candidate against all the other candidates," he said.
He urged Comelec to implement the rules on all candidates, saying the poll body cannot make an exception on Pacquiao's case.
"I think the Comelec should live up to the rules that it has promulgated and tell Manny Pacquiao that he has to postpone his fight until after the elections, and they can’t make an exception of one candidate from the strict rules that they have promulgated for all of us,” he said.
Bello, who also ran in the 2013 elections for Akbayan party-list, noted that celebrities and media personalities who seek electoral posts go on leave after filing their candidacies.
He said the same standard should be imposed on Pacquiao regarding his boxing commitments.
"There is a reason why celebrities and major personalities and commentators are told to take a leave from their work. I did, I was a commentator for the Philippine Daily Inquirer and I looked at the rules and during the lead up to the 2013 campaign, I took a leave from being a commentator. That was required of me and as a candidate I had to do that. Manny has to take a leave from being a boxer at this point with a big fight that's going on,” he said.
Meanwhile, Comelec Chair Andres Bautista admitted he still needs to study the matter.
“To be honest, about a month ago I asked one of our lawyers to look into that issue because again I was just curious. If I remember my election laws right, for example, if you are endorsing a product and then you run for political office, during the camping period you’ll have to stop endorsing that production. Now this one, as you know is somewhere in between the situation. Let me look into it. Let me look into it more," he said in the same interview.
He said Bello can file a case if he wants the poll body to address the issue.
"If Mr. Bello wants to file a case with Comelec, he can do so. We can formally look into it," he said.
Pacquiao has come under fire for calling people engaging in same-sex relationships as being "worse than animals." The boxing champ has since apologized for his remarks but said he opposes same-sex marriage.
Pacquiao draws flak for "masahol pa sa hayop" comment
Sportswear giant Nike has dropped Pacquiao as an endorser, saying the boxer's comments are abhorrent.
"Nike strongly opposes discrimination of any kind and has a long history of supporting and standing up for the rights of the LGBT community," Nike said.
READ: Nike axes Pacquiao over gay slurs