IN THE RING YOU FIGHT, BUT IN CONGRESS WHY DIDN’T YOU WRITE?
by: Camille N. De Pedro
“With great power, comes great responsibility” as a famous quote goes. This is true not only to fictional superheroes such as Spiderman, Batman, or Superman, but also to real humans who live day by day with the power and the position to create the change that our world needs, no matter how big that change may be. In our country, one of those who have the power to do so are politicians–lawmakers to be specific. These include the members of the legislative branch of the government such as congressmen and senators who formulate and pass laws in order to address the issues and needs of the citizens.
In the recently held national elections, 12 new senators were elected to serve the country for the next six years and one of the slots was given by the voters to Sarangani Rep. Emmanuel “Manny” Pacquiao, who garnered the 7th spot with over 16.05 million votes. Netizens were clamoring and reacting violently in relation to this result of the elections. Some people were disappointed with the majority of the voting population for electing a boxer as a national lawmaker. Others were neutral about it, saying that we should give him a chance to prove himself while others were extremely passionate about defending Pacquiao by saying that he should not be judged for having the heart to serve the people. Now, let us backtrack a couple of years in order to further understand why people have this opposition towards him in being a senator.
Manny Pacquiao rose to fame as a boxer–winning international belts in the late 1990’s to 2000’s, and brought pride to the Philippines by being a seven-division champion, a feat that only a few greats could achieve. Many people know that when he has a fight, traffic in EDSA is light, restobars and cinemas earn extra for special live screenings, and that the crime rate during the days of his fights decreases dramatically, almost zero in some towns and municipalities. This just comes to show how he became beloved by the Filipino people. Now, why all the hate?
Back in 2007, Pacquiao shocked the country when he announced his interest in politics and ran as the representative of the 1st district of South Cotabato, but lost to the incumbent Rep. Darlene Antonino-Custodio. He tried again in the 2010 elections and ran as the representative to the lone district of Sarangani. This time he won, but this was when the criticisms began.
In 2013, after his first term in the House of Representatives, news started to spread that Pacquiao was the representative to have tallied the most number of absences in the congress, being absent for 60 out of the 168 session days. Despite this record, he was re-elected to the post and served another three years as a congressman, only to disappoint the people again by showing up at the plenary hall once in the duration of July 2015 to June 2016. To top it all, he has not passed a single bill during the six years of his “service”.
Now, the question is how come the people still believe in him? More than that, even entrust him a seat in the senate? Is it because of the honor he has given the country in the field of sports? Is it because of the amount he spent in giving back to the poor? Even if these are true, and even if these are the reasons that the people have, I do not think that these are enough to put him in a place where lawyers and political scientists should be.
To be a representative of a district or a party-list does not just mean that he/she solely has to know what their problems and needs are, but take action and build concrete solutions to those problems. One way to do so is to attend house sessions and be able to collaborate with other representatives in formulating laws that will address these issues and alleviate the plight of the people. How can Pacquiao do that if he does not even attend these sessions? To be a representative is to become the voice of your people, their voice being the notions you pass to cater to their problems, which should translate to laws being made. In his two-term service as a representative, Pacquiao was not able to pass even one law. More importantly, above all the responsibilities of a representative, all public officials are deemed as leaders–leaders who have a vision, share this vision to the people, and act upon this vision to materialize progress for the nation.
It is really unfair especially to us normal people who work hard in our daily jobs and livelihoods, most especially to the taxpayers who bear the suffering of having their wages cut in order to pay lawmakers like Pacquiao who could not even perform his job. What is worse is that money is not the only thing being taken away from them. This incompetency, not only of Pacquiao but also of other representatives like him, takes away the opportunity of the people to have a brighter future. Each time they choose not to own up to the responsibilities of their task, a voice, a dream, a life may be lost. In addition, someone more capable and knowledgeable is deprived of the power to foster the development of the country just because a more popular but incompetent person has already captured the hearts of the people.
To whom do we attribute this happening in our government? More than Pacquiao, the underlying issues here include how voters select their leaders, and how candidates present themselves in a way that blinds the voters of what is essential to the position they are running for. Is it the fault of candidates like Pacquiao for appealing to the emotions of the people, and using ways as to how they know they will acquire votes, even if it means deceiving the people? Or is it the fault of the people, for believing in such promises, and allowing flowery speeches and too-good-to-be-true promises to cloud their thoughts and affect their judgment? The answers to these questions will always be debatable, and it will not be answered anytime soon. For as long as we do not recognize these ourselves, the healing of our wounded political system is yet to begin. As for Pacquiao, he may have been lucky to still receive support from most of the people but he has to be more cautious from now on. All eyes will be on him as he embarks on a new journey as a senator. Given his record and performance at the congress, only time could tell whichever will receive a punch on their conscience: those who voted for him, or those who did not believe in him.