MANILA, Philippines – Presidential aspirant and Senator Manny Pacquiao ended his first Commission on Elections’ debate on a strong note, punctuating the reasons why he should be the choice of the poor.
“Si Manny Pacquiao po ay mapagkakatiwalaan. Hindi po ako magnanakaw at hindi ko po gagawin mangawat sa ating gobyerno,” he said in his closing statement on Sunday, March 19.
(Manny Pacquiao can be trusted. I am not a thief and I will not steal from our government.)
Pacquiao has always talked about his anti-corruption platform but this statement has taken a new meaning after recently speaking out against the Marcoses. Dictator son Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. skipped Sunday’s debates, as he always does.
Pacquiao’s sincerity also shone during the debate as he turned emotional when he recounted his struggles in life. He said that being poor is not just a “concept.” He experienced it.
Naranasan ko pong matulog sa kalye. Naranasan ko pong magutom. Naranasan ko pong tubig lang ang inumin para maka-survive, malipas ang guttom. Kaya gagawin ko ang lahat maibsan lamang ang paghihirap ng sambayanang Pilipino,” he said.
(I experienced sleeping on the streets. I experienced hunger. I experienced drinking water just to survive, to sate my hunger. This is why I will do everything to alleviate the lives of Filipinos.)
Pacquiao said during the debate that whenever he goes around in sorties, he would rather visit the barangays and talk to the poor to learn about their hardships. This, he said, was what he preferred over inviting entertainers and setting up stages as characterized in other bet’s sorties.
‘Pinupuntahan ko po ‘yong mga barangay,’yong sulok ng mga mahihirap at doon po nakita ko kung paano ang paghihirap, kung ano ang pakiramdam nila at paghihirap sa buhay,” he said.
(I go to the barangays, the corners of the poor and there I see their struggles, how they feel, and how difficult life was for them.)
During the debate, he highlighted his housing program – a cornerstone in his platform – which he has already started with his own money. He said that when elected, this will be expanded in the government’s flagship infrastructure program, Build, Build, Build, which he said he will continue.
On the question of suspending excise taxes, Pacquiao said that he’s not exactly agreeing with its suspension. He said that he would rather have excise tax to be collected to fund subsides.
When asked about the readiness of students to enter the workforce, the boxing icon-turned-politician said that Filipinos are bright but the real problem is the availability of jobs.
In an earlier question, Pacquiao laid out his plans to help the economy recover from the gutting effects of the pandemic. He said he will be focusing on improving the country’s gross domestic product and that will be done by:
- Inviting foreign investors in the Philippines
- Investing in micro, small, and medium enterprises
- Stopping the importation of products
- Deprioritizing projects that have budgets but do not help in economic recovery
Pacquiao also said that he would strengthen the Technical Education And Skills Development Authority so that Filipinos who were unable to finish school will still have the necessary skills to land a job.
Pacquiao on Montemayor’s mind
Whenever doctor Jose Montemayor Jr. got the chance to ask questions, he always directed them at Pacquiao.
But Pacquiao’s performance on Sunday was his best yet, answering clearly and taking advantage of the questions thrown at him.
Montemayor asked him three times, with the first being on Pacquiao’s statement that the Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) protocols should be followed. For Pacquiao, there is nothing wrong with the IATF, but he said that people with the right credentials – which is public health – should be there.
Montemayor also reacted to labor leader Leody de Guzman’s statement that the Rice Tariffication Law should be repealed. When asked to whom did he want to address the question, Montemayor’s top of mind was Pacquiao.
Pacquiao answered that he agrees the Rice Taffication Law should be repealed as some farmers have yet to receive the promised cash assistance meant to modernize their equipment.
“Ang masakit po, hindi po sila nakakatanggap kahit piso po,” he said. (What’s heartwrenching is that, some have yet to receive even a peso from it.)
Montemayor also tried to corner Pacquiao about his apparent lack of entertainers during sorties, when the boxing icon himself is regarded with a “celebrity status.”
Pacquiao said: Lumang tugtugin na ‘yan – ‘yong magset up ka ng malaking stage at doon ang mga tao i-patawag mo at magsasabi ka ng ‘Kung ako iboto ninyo’ – ang pangako, babaon ang Pilipinas. Mga trapo nga po.”
(That’s old-style – setting up a huge stage where you draw a crowd and tell them ‘If you vote for me’ – but the promise will bring down the country. They are traditional politicians.)