POSTSCRIPT / December 14, 2003 / Sunday

By FEDERICO D. PASCUAL JR.

Philippine STAR Columnist

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Forget the trapos; vote for Pacquiao!

VOTE PACQUIAO: If you have Internet connection, go to http://www.hbo.com/boxing/games and vote for our very own Manny Pacquiao to help him clinch the HBO Fighter of the Year award.

A simple but valuable gesture of support for the fighter from General Santos who scored recently a blockbuster upset over Mexican Marco Antonio Barrera, the world featherweight king.

When we cast our ballot yesterday (Dec. 13), Pacquiao already had 80 percent of the votes sewn up, enjoying a comfortable lead over five other top fighters on the HBO list. Even then, rush your vote to make sure nobody snatches the lead in the last round.

The HBO poll is significant because the cable-TV outfit has been luring Pacquiao to sign a $20-$25-million contract for six fights. This, after his business manager in the Barrera bout in San Antonio, Texas, reportedly hid half of the purse from him.

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HIDDEN PURSE: Pacquiao was given $350,000 for mauling Barrera into submission in 11 exciting rounds last Nov. 16. The purse, 40 percent of which goes to his handlers, was supposedly good enough for him since it was already double what he got for his previous fight.

But it turned out that the purse in his Barrera bout was not $350,000 but actually $700,000 — except that he did not know it was that big. Serious fighters usually concentrate on training and leave the business details to their managers.

We were told by boxing manager and broadcaster Hermie Rivera that Pacquiao has retained a good lawyer to sort out the sordid details of the hidden purse and work out a better deal with HBO.

Poor Pacquiao now has to look for more money since the US internal revenue service is going after him for unpaid income taxes. He thought all along his manager had taken care of that IRS detail.

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PEOPLE’S CHAMP: Not being a ring expert, we consulted the veteran Hermie when a reader disputed our mentioning that the Barrera-Pacquiao duel was not a title bout.

Hermie assured us that we were right. The featherweight crown conferred on Barrera by the International Boxing Federation was not at stake. The Mexican knockout artist fought as “people’s world featherweight boxing champions.”

There are world-class boxers, one of them Barrera, who have gotten tired of the overbearing presence of IBF and the World Boxing Organization that rank boxers and make big bucks (7 percent of revenue, according to Hermie) arranging title bouts.

These champions just sort of brag and proclaim themselves as the world’s best and take on qualified challengers — bypassing the IBF and WBO syndicates. Barrera tangled with Pacquiao under this bragging rights concept.

Knowing the pound-for-pound ring value of these self-proclaimed “people’s” champions, the prestigious Ring magazine — the Bible of Boxing — has started to recognize them. This has opened another rating system outside the setup where boxers are virtually held hostage by the dollar-driven world federations.

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PEOPLE’S CHOICE: It’s uncanny, but actor Fernando Poe Jr. — like some world boxing greats — seems inclined to bypass the established political parties and go straight to the masses to be proclaimed the people’s choice.

Opposition parties and some ageing trapo (traditional politicians, but literally meaning “rag”) are falling over one another to recruit Poe as their official presidential bet and ride with him to victory in May 2004. The sight is ludicrous, if not pathetic.

But the actor appears hesitant to commit to them. A recent gathering of oppositionists and Marcos stragglers staged a rousing proclamation rally for him and Poe did not even show up.

If not taking that populist route to election victory, is Poe actually on his way to declaring he was backing out from a dirty fight that he did not really relish in the first place?

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POLITICAL PAWN: Despite his supposed runaway performance in the surveys, Poe might just blurt out one morning that he could not stomach it anymore and was backing out, thank you.

Contrary to what some people think, Poe is not that simple-minded. We are sure he knows that some people who cannot make it to the presidency themselves are just using him to pursue their own designs.

But if Poe loves his country, and we presume he does, he really must reconsider his plan to run for president.

There are still many of us who want their president to be able to think for himself instead of always cocking his ear for the script assistant or for a ventriloquist to deliver his lines.

At saka, for some queasy reason, we find it difficult trusting anybody who has to mumble and hide behind dark glasses when talking to us.

This is not the movies anymore. This is not a proxy fight to be taken lightly. This is high-stakes governance. At stake is no less than the presidency of the land.

As a world citizen, we want to be able to say with pride that the man exchanging views in a roundtable of distinguished personages from around the globe is Our President.

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PING-POE POKER: In the background, Sen. Panfilo “Ping” Lacson may just be playing his cards well by being obstinate despite his lower ranking in the surveys.

Poe once said, although not too many people seemed to have noticed it, that he would agree to run only if nobody else in the opposition is also running. It makes sense since a splintered opposition is nothing but lost motion.

If the senator is able to bluff the actor into thinking he (Lacson) is going ahead anyway, the political neophyte might just blink. With his bulging war chest, extensive network and straight talk, the former top cop might just stare down the player behind the shades.

Poe and Lacson met yesterday without the hangers-on. The recent proclamation of Poe was set aside and the two contenders agreed to meet again soon to further narrow down their differences.

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ROAD TO PERDITION: Robert B. Uy, head executive assistant at the Philippine Ports Authority, said in a rejoinder to Postscript last August that the 1.9-kilometer temporary access road in the Batangas Port will not be “demolished or affected” by the expansion work there.

Speaking for PPA general manager Alfonso Cusi to “disprove” our report, Uy said that the work being undertaken by contractor F. F. Cruz-Shimizu “will not encroach into any portion of the existing Batangas Access Road.”

We suggest that Uy leave his air-conditioned office and go to Batangas to see for himself. He will discover that the area where the road runs is fast being covered by one-meter of fill materials to create an 89-hectare container storage and operations area.

This is per specifications submitted to and approved by the Japan Bank for International Cooperation, which is lending us P2.6 billion for the port development.

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HARASSMENT SUIT: By the time the reclamation is finished and the replacement permanent road is completed by May or June, the temporary access road would have been obliterated and covered — contrary to the cocky claim of Uy.

That also means goodbye to the P42 million splurged by PPA officials on a temporary road that was originally designed to cost only P16 million. That road, by the way, has been called a “road to perdition” by graft-watchers.

Uy may also want to advise his fellow bureaucrat Efren Bollozos, a PPA department head, to be careful about filing harassment libel suits in faraway places when Manila-based media report on government projects using public funds.

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(First published in the Philippine STAR of December 14, 2003)

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