MANILA - Senator-athletes Pia Cayetano and Manny Pacquiao clashed during Tuesday’s Senate session over the content of Senate Bill 2077, or the bill seeking to create the Philippine Boxing and Combat Sports Commission.
The measure, penned by Pacquiao, aims to create a specific agency dedicated solely for the said sector that will be tasked to:
- Support the continued growth of professional boxing and combat sports in the country
- Encourage the discovery, training and development of world-class professional boxers and combatants
- Protect and enhance the welfare of professional boxers and combatants, and;
- In collaboration with the private sector, national government agencies and local government units, promote and make the country as an international/regional center for professional boxing and combat sports competition, training, convention and tourism
During the session’s period of debate, Cayetano, a triathlete herself, repeatedly grilled Pacquiao on the limitations of the bill in protecting athletes, considering that other sports figures like those who compete in international competitions like Asian Games and ASEAN Games also get hurt while attempting to bring honor to the country.
To stress her point, Cayetano also cited article 3 of the 1987 Constitution of the "bill of rights that ensures the equal protection of the law of every citizen."
"This bill mandates that there will be funding to support these athletes. So whether intentional yung sport na pinasok nila. Intentional yung pinasok nila o intention nila ay manakit, the end result is still injury. And I mentioned that there are many sports that result in injury," Cayetano said.
"May iba rin tayong mga atleta na na-injure at natigil din ang career. We also have a responsibility to these other athletes. That’s why I have a problem… will the honor agree to a bill that will expand the protection for all athletes whose sport subject them also to injury and harm," she added.
Pacquiao quickly acknowledged Cayetano’s recommendation.
Still, the lawmaker from General Santos City was adamant, and insisted that only boxers and others engaged in contact sports should be embraced by the proposed boxing commission given the nature and intensity of these games that are basically "meant to hurt."
Pacquiao also pointed out that his main intention for crafting the bill is primarily, to help boxers and those engage in contact sports, who upon retirement or once injured and was forced to retire, do not receive any government support upon retirement or once he or she is injured.
Cayetano sees the measure as one that is exclusive when it should be inclusive.
Cayetano is also opposed to the idea of promoting boxing and other contact sports citing the danger that it brings to children.
The lady senator also criticized intent of creating a commission that would need require another budget at this point.
Asked by Cayetano if the Games and Amusement Board (GAB) is not doing its job to help boxers, Pacquiao said: “Yes. Pero iilan lang."
"GAB is only a regulatory board.. the Philippine boxing that I’m talking about is to develop, improve until mag-retire sila.. makatanggap sila ng benepisyo, pension to ensure na sila ay protected," Pacquiao said.
"Maraming mga boksingero ngayon baldado, boxer ngayon na na-baldado, walang pension, walang natatanggap, at sa akin umiiyak at tinutulungan ko… pero the welfare of the boxer after their retirement, they (GAB) don’t care… ang daming mga boksingero na nagbigay sila ng karangalan sa ating bans ana dapat may pension sila, yang sa GAB walang natatanggap," he added.
GAB is only for the regulation, supervision and accreditation of boxers, Pacquiao also said.
Pacquiao and Cayetano’s heated debate was later on cut when Senator Francis Tolentino, co-author of the bill, moved to manifest and offered "workable solutions" for the lady senator to consider and support the bill.
"If the gentle lady would agree, a sub-classification would include injuries incurred unintentionally to athletes that they be provided some assistance by the government. in effect, combining, converging the aims of the sponsor as well as the aims of the gentle lady from Taguig to provide incentives, insurance, medical assistance to all athletes," Tolentino said.
"We’re starting to sound like an insurance commission," Senate President Vicente Sotto III quipped.
Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon later on questioned Tolentino’s motion which he said should only be made during the period of amendments and not during the period of debate.
"The gentleman from General Santos yield to Senator Cayetano who’s raising some questions. Suddenly we have three colleagues on the floor. Nahihilo na po ako hindi ko maintidihan… maybe Senator Tolentino can wait until after Senator Pia is finished or maybe he can inject his ideas during the period of amendments," Drilon said.
To defuse the tension, Senate Majority Leader Juan Miguel Zubiri later on moved to suspend the debate for the said bill.
The proposed creation of the Philippine boxing commission will continue during Wednesday’s senate session.