On a tour of Kuala Lumpur two years ago, our driver who doubled as a tour guide was an Indian national who said he had been living in Malaysia for more than 20 years. I initially thought that he was the quiet type because he sat silently behind the wheel, minding the road amid our endless charter.
Apparently, he had been listening to us all the time because when one of us mentioned the Philippines, he immediately asked if we were Filipinos.
When we answered yes, his mood changed, asking us if we knew Manny Pacquiao. He started talking about Pacquiao’s fights, growing more animated as he discussed more bouts.
I wanted to tell him that he was preaching to the choir so that he would stop blabbering and pay more attention to his driving, but I saw that he immensely enjoyed giving his blow-by-blow account, so I just closed my eyes and prayed that we could all go home in one piece. I was glad that I held back; otherwise, I would have missed his clincher. If Pacquiao will run for President, he said, I will go to your country and vote.
I am not sure if he was joking or was simply ignorant of election law when he said that. But I was certain it was resolve that I saw on his face when he announced that he would vote for the world boxing champion-cum-senator of the Republic.
I wonder how many Filipinos belong to his kind, boxing fans who equate Pacquiao’s success in the ring with fitness to govern a nation. Pacquiao certainly would like to know that too before he finally commits to fighting his greatest battle yet in his comparatively shorter political career. He wants to be President, no doubt about that, but he will not gamble the fortune he earned with his sweat and blood, on a quest for fool’s gold.
Indeed, Pacquiao’s political steps had been carefully measured, including his agreement to being president of the administration party even if at that time signs of a crack within were beginning to show. After all, the chairman of the party is no less than the Big Man himself and don’t the chairman and the president almost always head, hand in hand, towards the same direction?
But not in this case, unfortunately for Pacquiao. President Duterte has not only refrained from helping Pacquiao ward off a determined challenge to his party leadership, he appears to be encouraging the mutiny. After the PDP-Laban, for example, held its national council meeting here a few days ago in spite of Pacquiao’s opposition, the Palace spokesman revealed that the meeting was actually at the instance of the party chairman.
It is becoming increasingly evident with each passing day that the PDP-Laban hierarchy (minus Pacquiao) have already someone in mind when they asked Duterte to choose his candidate for President and he is not Pacquiao. Will it dissuade him from running?
We shall soon see. Pacquiao has sought a meeting with Duterte, according to published reports, to “iron out their differences.” I wonder again if it ever crossed his mind that Duterte would give him the Roque treatment if and when the meeting takes place.
You remember the Roque thing, of course, that conversation where Duterte bluntly told his spokesperson not to run for senator because he cannot win. If the President gives him the same advice, Pacquiao ought to heed it and press pause to his presidential run unless he is certain that there are millions out there, from Aparri to Jolo, who think and behave like our Indian driver in Kuala Lumpur.