By Senator Emmanuel “Manny” Pacquiao
(Politiko note: The story was originally published on Politiko 365 Magazine in 2017)
I grew up loathing politics down to the core primarily because of the bad example shown by many politicians. I thought politics in this country is so filthy that it’s irreversible and beyond redemption.
With this perception, I decided to turn down a request of a local opposition group to take the lead in toppling down a well-entrenched political dynasty then gripping General Santos City during the 2004 national and local elections.
I didn’t want any part of the despicable, rough-and-tumble world of politics. I’ve been extending help to those in need not just in General Santos but also in other parts of the country without having to be in politics.
Every time I return home from a fight, I never forget to share my blessings to others, particularly the poor. You can see a long queue of people outside my residence as I distribute grocery items, rice and even cash. I used to spend almost half of my earnings to charity works. This gives me a profound sense of self-fulfillment.
But, I realized I’m not getting any younger and I can’t forever be in boxing. Time will come I have to hang up my gloves. What will happen when I retire from boxing? Would it be possible for me to continue helping people by relying solely on my own resources?
Modesty aside, I have done my best in bringing honor and pride to my country. My legacy in the field of sports, particularly boxing, is already secured. I have nothing more to prove as a boxer.
But I want to bequeath a legacy not just in boxing but also in the field of public service.
After a thorough soul-searching, I decided to take on a more difficult challenge in the field of politics.
During the 2007 midterm elections, I threw my hat in the congressional race for the First District of South Cotabato, but many people, especially my political adversaries, did not take my candidacy seriously.
I was berated and insulted despite my sincere offer to serve. Inexperienced and lacking in political machinery, I lost by a wide margin against a political behemoth whose family practically ruled the area for more than two decades.
But I never gave up. I understand that, just like in boxing, winning or losing is nothing but a part of my newfound vocation.
I am no stranger to defeat. I experienced it several times in my career as a professional boxer. I refuse to give up. The word surrender is Greek to me.
Immediately after my electoral defeat, I started organizing in preparation for the 2010 elections. That time, I decided to transfer my voter’s registration from General Santos City to Sarangani, my original home place.
For this congressional race, I was pitted against another political Goliath, who is a scion of a billionaire businessman-politician. I won by more than 30,000 votes, making me the only active boxer in the world to be a member of a national legislature.
I succeeded in dismantling the political dynasty in Sarangani, but my victory was not yet complete. Finally, in the 2013 elections, I was able to topple down a dynasty in General Santos with the help of a mayoral candidate whom I duly supported. The victory was already complete but the tasks and the advocacies have just begun.
Prior to the May 2016 national and local elections, many friends and supporters egged me on to run for senator. Why not? I thought it was another opportunity for me to make history.
Despite my failure to launch a nationwide campaign, I garnered more than 16 million votes, landing 7th among the 12 new members of the Senate, usually perceived as a traditional springboard into the presidency.
Vying for the presidency, however, has not yet crossed my mind as I’m totally focused on my current legislative work which I found very challenging, mentally-enriching and self-fulfilling.
As a senator, my advocacies include, among others:
1. Creation of a Philippine Boxing Commission which aims to protect and promote the interest and welfare of active and retired Filipino professional boxers;
2. Protection of Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs);
3. Providing livelihood to poor farmers and fisherfolk;
4. Restoration of death penalty for heinous crimes involving drug trade, rape with murder, kidnap-for ransom and robbery with murder; and
5. Free housing for homeless Filipinos.
My active involvement in Philippine politics has changed my perception. Politics per se isn’t dirty. Only political actors with vested interests make it soiled and filthy.
To me, politics is a vocation, not a means to eke out a living. Being in politics entails lots of sacrifices; it is not financially rewarding.
Take it from me. I’m speaking based on my personal experience. Once your purpose in politics is to earn and not to serve, social services and the people suffer.
I keep on praying for Divine guidance while doing my tasks as a lawmaker.
I keep on praying God will protect and enlighten me as I continue to tread on treacherous ground where many temptations and scoundrels lurk along the way.
May God help me leave a legacy of a good name and an unblemished record in public service. For I believe it is possible to be a public servant without necessarily being corrupt.