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Last Night's Winner: Congressman-Elect Pac-Man

In sports, everyone is a winner—some people just win better than others. Like Manny Pacquiao, the boxer on the cusp of winning a congressional seat in his native Philippines, thus giving him a position of prominence in two criminal rackets.

For the most part, Pacquiao's dip into politics has been treated as an exotic little curio — zomg! an athlete and a politician?!? — even though we've already accustomed ourselves Stateside to such outlandish notions as candidate Lynn Swann, Congressman Heath Shuler, and President Gerald Ford. This is a serious deal, though. As Rafe Bartholomew pointed out in Slate a few months back, Pacquiao isn't exactly walking into a Capra movie:

Pacman says he's pursuing a political career to "help the people who are suffering." If that's his real goal, then running for office is the worst way to achieve it. Elected office in the Philippines has historically served little purpose other than to enrich those who hold it, and neither Pacquiao (nor even his superhero alter ego Wapakman) can do much to change that. The roll call of bandits running for office in 2010 includes Joseph "Erap" Estrada, the former president who was deposed in 2001, convicted of plunder, and then pardoned by current head of state Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo; madame president herself, who topped a 2007 survey of most-corrupt leaders, ahead of Estrada and even Ferdinand Marcos; and a candidate who calls himself Nanjananan and views the presidency as a stepping stone to his destiny, "emperor of the world." Philippine politics is not just a wretched racket but a perilous one. Sarangani, where Pacquiao is running, is a half day's drive from Maguindanao, the province where at least 57 people were executed in an election-related mass murder two weeks ago. Elections are known to be less bloody in Pacquiao's province, but with all the money at stake in these contests, any district can be deadly.

By running for office, Pacquiao might increase his fortune while destroying his reputation.


Bartholomew also notes that one of Pacquiao's patrons is a former provincial governor who ran a numbers game on the side. Pac-Man's a boxer, of course, and no doubt plenty used to hanging around crooks and professional bagmen. All he's doing now is signing up for a new racket. The difference, I guess, is that the boxer gets to be on the other end of the kickbacks, for once. Good for him?

Bill Dwyre: Early reports predict knockout win for Manny Pacquiao in Philippines congressional election [Los Angeles Times]
Congressman Manny Pacquiao, Representing The Fightin' Province Of Sarangani [The Queensberry Rules]
Thrilla in Manila [Slate]

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