Pacquiao poised to rake in publicity ahead of Senate elections

MANILA–Philippines boxing icon and Senate candidate Manny Pacquiao has won an electoral round against his critics.

The Commission on Elections (Comelec), the Philippines’ national poll agency has admitted it’s not in a position to limit the broadcast of the fight between Pacquiao and Timothy Bradley in Las Vegas on April 9. Pacquiao’s political opponents say allowing the broadcast will give Pacquiao unfair preelection publicity.

Pacquiao, who’s served for more than eight years as a congressman, is running for the Senate in the Philippines’ May 9, 2016 elections. His fight is scheduled exactly a month before the polls and within the campaigning period for candidates in national races.

The Philippines Senate is composed of 24 senators who are elected at-large with the country as one district under plurality-at-large voting. Twelve seats are up for grabs in the May national elections which will also decide who will be the next president of the Philippines.

Bradley and Pacquiao in earlier match

Pacquiao hasn’t fought since his loss last May to Floyd Mayweather in an event billed as the richest in boxing history. He underwent shoulder surgery after the bout, and spent the rest of 2015 in rehab. The April match will be the third time he is fighting Bradley.

Independent Senatorial candidate Walden Bello and former Senator Rene Saguisag, in a petition filed before the Comelec, said the poll body should strictly enforce the Fair Elections Act.

The Fair Elections Act sets requirements and limitations on the use of election propaganda through mass media to allow candidates and political parties equal access to media time and space during the campaign period.

But with the upcoming fight, Bello said pay-per-view arrangements will give Pacquiao not only nationwide but international exposure — a huge advantage against other candidates in reaching out to an estimated over 1.3-million Filipino voters abroad.

Bello asserts that Comelec Resolution Number 10049 also prohibits showing publicly in a theater, through a TV station, or any public forum any movie, cinematography or documentary, including concert or any type of performance, portraying the life or biography of a candidate.

Comelec won’t rule

Comelec Chairman Andres Bautista said a majority of commission members voted that they aren’t in a position to act on Bello and Saguisag’s petitions.

He says there was no ruling on whether Pacquiao is allowed under election rules to hold a publicized boxing fight in the middle of the campaign period. “We’re not talking about allowing or stopping,” he said.

Bautista said Bello and Saguisag were simply requesting the poll body to issue a position on how election laws could be applied to Pacquiao’s upcoming fight. It is not a formal complaint against the boxing legend for any violation of Philippine election laws.

As a quasi-judicial body, he said Comelec also cannot issue an advisory ruling on an event that is yet to happen.

“There were three things that we found: there was no formal complaint in accordance with the rules; the fight has not yet occurred; there is as yet no (sic) justiciable controversy,” the Comelec chief said.

Still not off the hook

However, Bautista clarified that Pacquiao is still not off the hook.

The poll body chief says a complaint can still be filed against Pacquiao in accordance with the rules.

“We will act if and when a complaint is filed,” he said.

“We’ll see how things develop in the next few days or weeks,” he added.

The poll body opted not to apply the step it took nine years ago when it limited the broadcast of Pacquiao’s fight with Mexico’s Jorge Solis.

Congressman Pacquiao

At that time, Pacquiao was running for Congressman (albeit unsuccessfully) in his hometown of General Santos City.

Comelec, in this case, didn’t allow Pacquiao’s April 14, 2007 fight with Mexico’s Jorge Solis to air in the city.

This time, Comelec said Pacquiao’s fight with Bradleyㅡwhich coincides with a nationwide campaign for a Senate seatㅡwas not on all fours with the previous case, which concerned local elections.

“You can’t say both cases are apples to apples,” Bautista said.

Pacquiao has faced other recent challenges. He recently drew international flack for saying that homosexual couples are “worse than animals.”

He was also criticized for racking up the largest number of absences during the Philippines’ 15th Congress. Out of 168 session days, he was only present for four days.

The boxing champ also juggles other careers —  including those as a basketball team coach, television personality, and product endorser.

Still, Pacquiao is within the top 12 candidates in various senatorial preferential surveys.

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