Pacquiao defends attendance record in Congress

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jan 19 2015 03:52 PM | Updated as of Jan 20 2015 12:24 AM

Manny Pacquiao in Congress

MANILA, Philippines – Filipino boxing icon and Sarangani Representative Manny Pacquiao was grilled on his attendance record in the House of Representatives during an appearance in New York City for the Fil-Am Press Club.

Cristina DC Pastor, writing for The FilAm– a magazine for Filipino-Americans in New York – reported that Pacquiao was mobbed by press club members and that the "Pacman" took the time to invite everyone to watch his documentary, "Manny."

"Someone asked about his attendance record as a congressman at the House of Representatives," Pastor wrote. "According to press reports he had the lowest attendance: seven out of 70 session days."

Pacquiao's response to the question stunned Pastor, who had titled her article: "The Arrogance of Manny Pacquiao: 'I Don't Just Sit Around Making Laws.'"

"May ginagawa naman tayo, hindi lang tayo naka-upo," she quoted Pacquiao as saying. "'Yung iba diyan, nakaupo lang, gawa ng gawa ng batas. Tumutulong naman tayo sa tao."

Pastor asked Pacquiao: "Pero congressman, isn't that your job? To make laws?"

"Pacquiao did not answer directly, but his next statement was even more jaw-dropping," Pastor wrote.

"He said: 'Mas gusto ko nga kung natalo ako, sana natalo na lang ako.' He said he has spent more money than a pork barrel budget, as if suggesting he could help more people as a private citizen," she added.

"Next time, he continued, 'Huwag niyo na ako iboto. Mas gusto ko nga matalo na lang ako,'" she aadded.

Pacquiao has consistently topped the list of absentees in Congress, and this is not the first time he has come under fire for his subpar performance as a representative.

Former Senator Rene Saguisag in December 2014 suggested that Pacquiao should be suspended for treating legislative work as a hobby.

Saguisag was critical not only of Pacquiao's treatment of his role in the Congress as a "sideline" but also his decision to be a playing-coach in the Philippine Basketball Association (PBA).

Pastor wrote that Pacquiao's responses to her questions caused her to change her view of the "Pacman."

"At this point, I began to look at Pacquiao not as a beloved boxing idol, but one whose fame has traveled to his head," she wrote. "I began to wonder if he was being sarcastic, if he drunk, or that he realized the consequences of what he was saying."

"A colleague perceptively noted how Pacquiao appeared to have criticized his colleagues as do-nothings in Congress, and he too was stunned. Another colleague wondered and whispered: 'Why did he run in the first place?'"

Pastor noted that Pacquiao may have been telling them something.

"Maybe there's no need to attend congressional sessions, which of late have become talking clubs and anti-corruption witchunts, and nothing more," she wrote. "Maybe it's better to be out there in the trenches, talking to people and giving them direct assistance, rather than assistance than goes through check-and-balance and tight layers of Executive-Legislative oversight."

At the same time, she was admittedly wary of politicians like Pacquiao who do not understand "the institutional nature of being a lawmaker."

"(Pacquiao's) job does not involve handouts, but making laws that will provide jobs, education, and opportunities to create a society where it becomes unnecessary to provide handouts that foster dependency," Pastor pointed out.

"Pacquiao is adored by legions of young people, and his startling message that night seemed to be: Who says you have to follow the law to be a congressman?"