The elephant in Pacquiao’s bill

This is my Fair Play column for SunStar Cebu’s May 22 edition.

Manny Pacquiao’s heart is in the right place, but I’m afraid he’s making the wrong moves with his pet bill, which seeks to establish a new commission for boxing and martial arts.

If this happened pre-2016, I would wholeheartedly agree. Heck, I would even go as far as pushing for the dissolution of the Games and Amusements Board (GAB), a useless agency that failed its mandate.

But since Baham Mitra has taken over GAB, he has shown us how an agency that oversees boxing should be run and it is unfortunate that Pacman hasn’t seen that.

Perhaps his almost three decades of experience has shown him that GAB is a lost cause given the many mistakes of the past.

And there were many. An official accused of human trafficking? Fighters getting away with fighting under name? False MRI scans?

Those were some of the things Mitra addressed in his first few months on the job and I thought then, “Ok, this guy seems to be doing something new. Will his resolve last?”

GRILLED. Manny Pacquiap struggled in justifying why his bill to create a new agency for boxing and mixed-martial arts deserve P150 milllion. (Photo grabbed from PSC website)

Five years later, I’m hoping that Mitra gets another six-year term.

That’s how drastic a change GAB has seen under him. So instead of allocating P150 million for a new agency, why not push to instituionalize the reforms Mitra started?

Because I fear that should the same old guys take over again, we’d be back hearing fighters who should be allowed abroad due to the knockdown rule getting fights so an up-and-comer can get a Pinoy under his belt or of fake MRI scans being used.

Though Sen. Pia Cayetano questioned the need to spend P150 million on a redundant agency amid the pandemic—an expense as questionable as the dolomite beach—what wasn’t discussed was the elephant in the room.

Manny Pacquaio, who is a boxing promoter, wants to form an agency that will oversee his business. The bells for conflicts of interest should have been rung in the first debate.

Because if you really think about it, Manny could do more with his concern for the welfare of boxers who risk their lives for a pittance.

For instance, he said some of those who lost their lives got nothing. Why not require promoters to put up a comprehensive insurance plan for their boxers, from the four-rounders to their championship contenders? Why should the government fund what is essentially a private endeavor? I mean, high-rise construction workers also risk their lives.

Too expensive for the promoters?

I was shocked, too, to learn how low four-round fighters get as their purse. Then why not institutionalize a pay scheme that would give them a livable wage, not the pittance that they get now?

Would that be too expensive also for promoters like Manny?

Again, let me say, Manny’s concerns about the state of boxers in the country are valid, but I think those concerns won’t be addressed by the creation of a new agency.

What we need is to empower GAB and for a boxer of his experience, he can share his knowledge of what needs to change should there be more changes needed.

Perhaps we need the country’s version of the Muhammad Ali Act of the US, to make sure the fighters aren’t robbed blind by their promoters thanks to complicated contracts.

That’s something we can all get behind, should Manny take the lead.

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