I am writing this piece in the middle of the bout between Manny “Pacman” Pacquiao and Floyd Mayweather, Jr. I cannot be distracted from my writing, lest I miss the deadline in submitting the column to BusinessWorld. In other words, I will miss what has been called the fight of the century. (Fight of the century? That’s hype. It’s only 2015; surely a better breed of Pacquiao and Mayweather will emerge in the next 85 years.)

Filipino fans watching Manny Pacquiao fight — and lose to — Floyd Mayweather on a live telecast monitor along a busy street in Manila. Pacquiao should inspire us to be one with fellow Filipinos in fighting for the common good and the country’s interest, regardless of our ethnicity, our religion, our politics. — Reuters

Anyhow, like my kababayan Rene Saguisag, I have avoided watching boxing matches. Quoting the early 20th-century American sportswriter William O’Connell McGeehan, Saguisag describes boxing as the “manly art of modified murder.”
One cannot dispute Saguisag’s statement: “Boxing’s one clear intent is to hurt a fellow human being.” Tongue in cheek. I rejoin: At least in boxing, the objective is transparent, and the fighters are honest about their intent to punch, bloody, and knock out their adversaries. In other sports, the players bend the rules, applying foul tactics (some are sanctioned) to break the body and soul of the opponents. Basketball, the Philippines’ favorite sport, and football, the world’s most beautiful game, have moments that can be described not only as the manly art but also as the sly science of modified manslaughter.

In a word, Saguisag does not like boxing. Neither does he like Pacquiao. Saguisag complains that Pacquiao is an absentee congressman, which is a waste of taxpayers’ money, among other bad things. Worse, Pacquiao has been charged with tax evasion. Writes Saguisag: Pacquiao leads all names in the Bureau of Internal Revenue’s cases, owing the people P3.9 billion pesos.

To be fair to the gullible Pacquiao, he is committed to settling his tax liability. Who knows? He and Internal Revenue Commissioner Kim Henares might just kiss and be friends. Then, they can become a feared and tough pair that will pursue and beat the bad guys.

Saguisag also thinks that Pacquiao is a disgrace to the Philippine Basketball Association. Pacquiao has a basketball team, a toy for him, just so he can show how his boxing skills can be applied on the basketball court.

One thing I like about Saguisag — no need to extol his many virtues like his integrity and rectitude — is that he is a lawyer who thinks like an economist. When he criticizes Pacquiao for becoming a politician and a professional basketball player, he is actually talking about the basic economic concept of specialization and comparative advantage.

Pacquiao might be a better politician (after all, he beat veteran politicians in the elections) and a better basketball player (he is athletic) than many of us. But he is best in boxing. Hence he must focus on boxing. Politics and basketball distract him from doing what he does best. Boxing is where he has relative comparative advantage.

Unlike Saguisag, I’m beginning to like Pacquiao. I like his call for peace in war-torn Mindanao and his support for the Bangsamoro Basic Law. That is a brave position, given that his fellow Mindanao Christians and many other Filipino Christians have deep-seated biases against the Moros.

I like his appeal to Indonesian President Joko Widodo to spare the life of Mary Jane Veloso, sentenced to die because of alleged drug smuggling.

In his appeal to Widodo, Pacquiao said: “Mr. President, on May 2nd, I will be fighting in Las Vegas, Nevada, against Floyd Mayweather. It is considered the fight of the century. It will be a great morale booster if in my own little way I can save a life. I am dedicating this fight to my country and the entire Asian people.”

I like Pacquiao for becoming the sagisag, the symbol, of national unity. And Rene Saguisag will agree that Pacquiao can unite our people. All this is of great import in light of the division of our society. We are fighting each other when we need to be one in responding to natural calamities, in forging peace in Mindanao, in saving the life of a Filipina abroad, in deterring China’s aggression.

A Pacquiao win will be a big boost to national unity. But win or lose, Pacquiao should inspire us to be one with fellow Filipinos in fighting for the common good and the country’s interest, regardless of our ethnicity, our religion, our politics.

If Pacquiao loses, I wish some quarters would not fault PNoy and Kim Henares for harassing him with a tax evasion case. (If he wins, I wish they would not say that the victory is deserved in spite of PNoy and Kim.)

We are one, win or lose.

Filomeno S. Sta. Ana III coordinates the Action for Economic Reforms.


This article was first posted in BusinessWorld on May 4, 2015.