Pacquiao a legend but will he be president?

By David Dizon, ABS-CBNnews.com

Posted at May 05 2015 09:04 PM | Updated as of May 06 2015 05:04 AM

Manny Pacquiao of the Philippines (R) lands a right against Floyd Mayweather, Jr. of the U.S. in the fifth round during their welterweight WBO, WBC and WBA (Super) title fight in Las Vegas, Nevada, May 2, 2015. REUTERS/Steve Marcus

MANILA - Will boxing champ Manny Pacquiao's defeat at the hands of Floyd Mayweather Jr. derail his political plans, including a possible presidential bid?

According to Yoly Ong, founder of Campaigns & Grey Philippines, Pacquiao's defeat has done nothing to tarnish his reputation as an everyman-turned-Pambansang Kamao who inspires millions.

"Baka nga ang pagmamahal lumaki pa e. Ganito yan. As Filipinos, we are famous for loving the underdog and loving the one who, against all odds, was able to succeed and Manny is all of that. I think the term reinvention was invented for him," she said in an interview with ANC's Talkback with Tina Monzon Palma.

"It is also the personality regardless of the environment where he is, whether it is politics or sports or spirituality. Manny Pacquiao is a legend already. He is in that status that even when he falls, people just expect he will resurrect just as he did in the past."

Pacquiao lost a unanimous decision to Mayweather last Sunday in the match dubbed the "Fight of the Century." The boxing congressman of Sarangani later said he had an injured right shoulder even before the fight and criticized the Nevada State Athletic Commission (NSAC) for not allowing an injection that would numb the pain.

TWO BRANDS COLLIDE

Ong said the mega-bout showed an interesting collision of two different "brands": Mayweather as the intimidating tactician and Pacquiao as the smiling puncher who was always talking about God.

She said Pacquiao's frequent mentions about his faith reached the point that Mayweather "had to tone down his usual brashness and his usual yabang (arrogance)."

She said one reason why scalper tickets for the fight went for astronomical sums was because of the larger-than-life personalities of the two fighters. Media also played a huge role in building up the legend of the Pacman.

Pacquiao, in particular, filled a void left behind by boxing superstars such as Muhammad Ali, Mike Tyson, Sugar Ray Leonard, Marvin Hagler and Oscar dela Hoya, according to MMDA Chairman Francis Tolentino.

"I think they paid because the two personalities were larger than life. Now, once the two are gone, it's like when [Michael] Jordan left the NBA. It took some time for the sport to become exciting again. We are all personality-bound," Ong explained.

Ong, who worked with Benigno Aquino III in the 2010 presidential election, said one reason why people will continue to love Pacquiao despite the loss is his authenticity.

"I have no doubt that Filipinos will continue to love him. Going to Mary Jane [Veloso] is not a put on," she said, referring to Pacquiao's earlier statement that he wants to visit the convicted Filipina in Indonesia after President Joko Widodo gave her a
last-minute reprieve.

"I've met a lot of politicians because I am also in marketing. I think I can spot the fakes more than the normal person and there is nothing fake about him. He is what he is at the moment that you see him. That's who he is," she said.

SPIRITUALITY AND THE PRESIDENCY

Ong said Pacquiao's spirituality also explains one aspect of the fascination with the boxing congressman.

"I think the international audience will always be curious about Manny Pacquiao, what is going to happen especially now that he has had a setback. It is not just so much because he talks about spirituality, although that makes him look even more sincere and more real. Maybe it turns off those who are not very godly but I think, by and large, most people equate spirituality with integrity, sincerity and honesty," she said.

Not every politician can lay a claim to that kind of connection. Ong recalled one political ad that showed a candidate holding a Bible. That ad backfired, she said, "because it was so unreal. It was like a costume that he put on."

Pacquiao once confirmed he will run for President someday, but has since been coy about his political plans.

Top Rank boss Bob Arum later told media that Pacquiao plans to run for senator in 2016 and then President in a future election.

Despite his popularity, many pundits doubt if Pacquiao has what it takes to lead the country. Pacquiao topped the list of absentee lawmakers in the House of Representatives last year, attending only seven of the 70 session days from January 20 to December 17, 2014.

He has also been linked to former Ilocos Sur governor Luis "Chavit" Singson, a self-confessed former gambling lord who was instrumental in the impeachment of then-President Joseph Estrada in 2000.

Former Congresswoman Darlene Antonino-Custodio, who gave Pacquiao his first and only political defeat in 2007, said the boxer could be too gullible in terms of whom he decided to choose as allies.

"I like Manny. I think he is a very sincere politician. He just needs to be careful about who he surrounds himself with," she said.

Boyet Sison, one of the anchors of ANC sports program Hardball, said Pacquiao's narrative - as prize fighter, singer, movie star and politician - is one of the reasons why people look up to him.

"They want to be like that. It gives them a sense of hope," he said.

Would Pacquiao make for a good president? Ong said she would not take Pacquiao as a client "at this point."

However, she said Pacquiao could do very well as a leader if he follows the example of Batangas Gov. Vilma Santos Recto who studied and worked hard after she was elected.

"If Manny puts his mind to educating himself, getting the right philosophy or the right vision for the country, if he studies and works as hard as he does for his sport, he might not be so bad. So I am not going to close the door and say forever he's never going to make a good leader," she said.

"If there is one word to describe Manny Pacquiao, he is full of possibilities. Manny is possibilities. So who knows?" With a report by Agence France-Presse