Legal punch complicates Pacquiao’s Philippines Senate bid

Will Pacquiao continue match with Timothy Bradley or face legal repercussions in Philippines Senate race?

MANILA–Boxing champion Manny Pacquiao has been asked by the Commission on Elections (Comelec), the Philippines’ election body, to explain his side on petitions alleging that his upcoming boxing match would violate election laws and would put other candidates at a disadvantage.

Timothy Bradley lands a punch on Pacquiao in earlier April 2014 match.

Timothy Bradley lands a punch on Pacquiao in earlier April 2014 match.

Pacquiao is running for the Senate in the Philippines’ May 9, 2016 national elections.

His fight with Bradley is exactly one month before the elections and is within the campaign period of Feb. 9 to May 7, 2016.

Independent senatorial candidate Walden Bello and former Senator Rene Saguisag in a petition filed before the Comelec said the poll body should strictly enforce the Fair Elections Act.

The Fair Elections Act has provided requirements and limitations on the use of election propaganda through mass media to allow candidates and political parties equal access to media time and space during the campaign period.

Fight as election billboard

But with the upcoming fight, Bello said pay-per-view arrangements will give Pacquiao not only nationwide but international exposure, reaching Filipino voters abroad.

“It can be interpreted as undue advantage given a candidate running for a national position,” Bello said.

He added that Comelec Resolution Number 10049 also prohibits showing publicly in a theater, through a TV station, or any public forum any movie, cinematography or documentary, including concert or any type of performance, portraying the life or biography of a candidate.

Former head of Comelec Sixto Brillantes said the boxer-cum-politician should postpone his fight to avoid probable legal repercussions.

He said it is not far fetched to think that Pacquiao deliberately timed his fight with the election period.

“[Such] coverage would surely provide him an enormous advantage over all other senatorial candidates. [It would be difficult] to deny that it was not deliberate,” he said.

April 9 match

The fight scheduled on April 9 is not only within the campaign period but also the start of balloting for overseas voters and campaigning abroad is already prohibited under Philippine election laws.

“Specially in this instance, the fight is held abroad which will cater to overseas voters in view of the worldwide coverage” Brillantes added.

He explained that pay-per-view is analogous to a product endorsement of a candidate.

“The reason being it provides added propaganda advertisements to one’s candidacy besides earning financially from such endorsements,” said Brillantes.

Pacquiao, in most of his fights “wears” advertisements. Logos of products from energy drink, muscle pain reliever, fast food chain are on his boxing shorts.

“It provided Pacquiao not only with financial benefit but also extends additional exposure to himself well beyond the allowed period of political airtime,” he said, pointing out that such acts are considered electoral offenses punishable in the Philippines.

Mixed legal opinions

But a fellow election law expert Atty. Romulo Macalintal defended Pacquiao, saying the boxer cannot be disqualified or punished if he pushes through with the fight.

“Even if there is any offense defined under Philippine laws, the same could not be imposed against Pacquiao because the fight will be held in Las Vegas City and our courts, under the doctrine of territoriality have no jurisdiction over offenses committed by a person outside the territory of the Philippines except if it involves national security. For sure the Pacquiao-Bradley fight is not covered by such exception,” said Macalintal.

Besides, he added that the coverage of the fight is between the media entity and the promoter.

Comelec Chairman Andres Bautista said they will wait for Pacquiao’s comment on the matter but assured that they will decide on the issue as soon as possible.

He refused to respond to queries on whether they will order the postponement of the fight but said that “the only issue is whether or not we use the power given to us during an election period to regulate the airtime of Congressman Pacquiao.”

The Comelec may also draw guidance from its 2007 action against the boxer during his fight with Mexican Jorge Solis. At that time, Pacquiao was seeking a congressional post.

However, Bautista said the situation is different because Pacquiao now is seeking a national position.

“The circumstances are different in terms of scale … The prudent action to take is to allow the camp of Pacquiao to submit his comment,” he said.

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