BARELY three weeks into his term as senator, boxing champion Manny Pacquiao has once again exposed a critical flaw in our democracy—that anyone with half a brain and enough popularity and money can win election to high public office.
Last week, we were treated to the spectacle of the newly minted senator delivering his first privilege speech urging Congress to reinstate the death penalty for drug-related crimes, exhibiting a dangerous combination of ignorance and arrogance.
Although he took 15 minutes to speak his mind, Paquiao’s message was rather simple. We should reinstate the death penalty because 1) It will eradicate the drug menace; 2) the Constitution allows it; and 3) the Bible allows it.
The boxer-turned-senator did little by way of presenting facts or figures to bolster his first argument, while the second point was based on his interpretation of Section 19 of the Bill of Rights, which states: “Excessive fines shall not be imposed, nor cruel, degrading or inhuman punishment inflicted. Neither shall the death penalty be imposed, unless, for compelling reasons involving heinous crimes, the Congress hereafter provides for it. Any death penalty already imposed shall be reduced to reclusion perpetua.”
Thus, Pacquiao argued, the fact that the august drafters of the 1987 Constitution left the door open means that we should perforce take that path—an argument that seems lacking in logic and good sense.
Finally, by invoking the Bible, the boxer demonstrated his ignorance that religious doctrine is not an acceptable basis for government policy in a secular state.
It was after his speech, however, when he had to answer questions posed by his colleagues, that Pacquiao really came into his own. Asked by one comedian-turned-senator which method of execution he favored, Paquiao hemmed and hawed before admitting with some mirth that he preferred death by hanging. “All you have to do is kick the bench away,” he said, trying to inject humor into what should have been a serious discussion.
Were ignorance his only sin, we could write Pacquiao as a buffoon like others that preceded him in the Senate. But the new senator also proved that he is a liar who is untrue to his word.
In May, after refusing to represent the country in the Olympics this year, Pacquaio—who was among the most delinquent lawmakers in the House of Representatives during his two terms—promised to become a full-time lawmaker and attend every session of the Senate.
It took him only three weeks to break this promise, announcing he would come out of retirement to fight again in Las Vegas in October. Assurances that the fighting will not interfere with his Senate duties are about as convincing as his earlier vow to become a full-time senator.
But we do get the government we deserve, and if majority of voters continue to leave their brains out of the electoral exercise, stupid will win—again and again.