Will Manny Pacquiao Walk Back His Praise for Murderous Rodrigo Duterte?
By Ivan G. Goldman
We’ve seen how it works. Manny Pacquiao says something stupid or obnoxious and his promoter Bob Arum gets him to take it back, limiting the damage. But this time it might not be so easy.
Senator Pacquiao has praised Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte, a murderous lout who brags about sending death squads into the streets to eliminate drug dealers and users. Pacquiao will once more face U.S. and other Western journalists when he makes the final media push to draw a crowd for the Nov. 5 defense of his WBO welterweight title against Jessie Vargas in Las Vegas.
The senator/prizefighter is a political ally of Duterte, so if he follows his usual practice of toning down his previous words in order to sell his brand on this side of the world he could get himself in deep trouble back home.
Remember when he either implied or stated outright that gays should be put to death because it says so in the bible? Precisely what he said remains unclear. But eventually, after conferring with Arum, he contended he was only opposing gay marriage, not calling for the slaughter of gay folks.
Whatever he said, Nike decided it was bad enough to drop his endorsement contract earlier this year. However, had Pacquiao kayoed Floyd Mayweather in the “fight of the century” last year instead of losing a dull decision, Nike might have found another course.
“In the past administrations people didn’t respect the law, the leader, the authorities,” Pacquiao said in one of his milder rationalizations for street murders. “What Duterte is trying to do is let the people know – and put it in their hearts and minds – that you need to respect the law of the land.”
Well, that’s one way to put it. Another way is to observe that his pal Duterte is an ignorant homicidal brute who thinks about as deeply as a thin-crust pizza pan. Pacquiao’s pronouncements in his favor leave Arum in a sizeable pickle.
It’s hard to say how many victims Duterte can claim, but it appears to be in the thousands. Infamously alluding to Hitler, he said he doesn’t much care if he has to kill millions.
“If you destroy my country, I’ll kill you. That’s a legitimate thing,” Duterte said. “If you destroy our young children, I will kill you. That is a very correct statement.”
Once you condone murder it’s impossible to know where it stops, but you can bet it won’t lead to a drug-free paradise. Some folks will decide they’ve found an opportune moment to eliminate enemies and claim later they were drug criminals. When there’s no judicial review, how do you prove otherwise? In any case the victims are already dead, aren’t they?
Pacquiao recently filed a bill to reinstate the death penalty for drug-related crimes and worked in the Senate to tamper down a human-rights investigation of Duterte’s street justice. Clearly Manny the senator isn’t living up to the achievements of Manny the prizefighter.
Manny the prizefighter was no longer of interest to me after he stepped into the ring against Mayweather with a bum shoulder. He later claimed his motive was to stay true to his fans, but many of his fans placed sizeable wagers on him, as he well knew. He proceeded with the contest to stay true to his purse.
After covering Pacquiao for years I see no reason to believe he could run the economy and foreign affairs of a huge country like the Philippines. Yet he’s looking to be president some day. He lacks education, yes, but that’s not why he falls short.
Abraham Lincoln’s education was also limited, but he showed tremendous intellectual curiosity, which led to tremendous knowledge and the ability to use it to improve the world around him. Lincoln often referred to thinkers such as Shakespeare, Robert Burns, Euclid, and yes the bible. Pacquiao’s citations are limited to the bible.
When voters seek out talented political leaders they could do worse than looking back at how giants such as Lincoln, Churchill, or Washington ran the show. Limiting your perspective to folks like Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump leads you to choices like Hillary Clinton versus Donald Trump.
So how will Pacquiao perform in the ring against Vargas? Forgive me if I don’t much care, though I do care about the health of both fighters. I respect what Pacquiao accomplished in the past. He was a special fighter, but he’ll be 38 in December and he’s taken a lot of punches. He shouldn’t absorb any more of them.
Pacquiao has already earned, according to Forbes, $500 million. He ought to go home, read about Lincoln, and see where that takes him.
Fulbright Scholar Ivan Goldman, who’s won numerous awards from the Boxing Writers Association, wrote about politics in his whimsical futuristic novel Exit Blue, which is available at https://www.amazon.com/Exit-Blue-Ivan-G-Goldman/dp/0930773942/ref=asap_bc?ie=UTF8 and at tasteful bookstores around the globe.