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Pacquiao foes retreat after news ban bid sparks protests

By Christian V. Esguerra, Aquiles Zonio
Mindanao Bureau
Last updated 05:15am (Mla time) 04/04/2007

MANILA, Philippines -- The opposition went on the retreat Tuesday after one of its lawyers� call for a ban on the showing on Philippine television of ring idol Manny Pacquiao�s forthcoming fight in the United States drew howls of protest from both sides of the globe.

Pacquiao is scheduled to fight Mexico�s Jorge Solis in San Antonio, Texas, on April 14 (April 15 in Manila).

United Opposition (UNO) lawyer Sixto Brillantes, who told the Philippine Daily Inquirer the other day that he would ask the Commission on Elections to ban the airing of the fight, dropped any mention of it in the letter he sent to the Comelec.

�We�re willing to concede that the fight itself is legitimate news,� Brillantes said in a phone interview, following scathing criticism from Pacquiao fans.

Watching fight is right

In a statement, GO spokesperson Adel Tamano said that watching the fight was �nothing short of a right of Filipino sports fans.�

The opposition camp scrambled to contain the impact of calling for a �total news blackout� on Pacquiao in the wake of his decision to run for the first congressional district of South Cotabato and General Santos City against incumbent Rep. Darlene Antonino-Custodio.

At Pacquiao�s official fan website, angry comments came as early as 12:39 a.m. Tuesday, soon after the Inquirer story was posted at

�Are you out of your mind?� one fan wrote in the site�s forum. �You should remember that when Manny fights, our nation stops for a while and pays attention to see him fight. He makes us all united for a while. Think twice, girl, before it�s too late.�

�Is she insecure?� asked another fan, presumably referring to Custodio.

Wrote another: �Remember that the majority of the people will not care about campaign rules. But they certainly will care about the Pacman-Solis fight. I know it is sad, but that is the fact right now.�

Custodio told the Inquirer by phone that she and her party mates in the Achievement with Integrity Movement also wanted to see the fight for themselves.

Rules should be followed

Custodio, speaking in Filipino, added, however: �There are Comelec rules that candidates have to follow. So it�s all up to the Comelec.�

Custodio said that Brillantes was not a lawyer of AIM but of UNO and �he really just wanted to help us.�

In wanting to have the Pacquiao-Solis fight banned from being aired locally, Brillantes had told the Inquirer that the showing of the fight would give Pacquiao an unfair publicity advantage over Custodio in the run-up to the May 14 polls.

In his letter to the Comelec dated April 2, Brillantes only asked the Comelec to stop the printing and airing of commercial advertisements featuring Pacquiao.

Brillantes said UNO noted with �deep concern and apprehension� Pacquiao�s print and broadcast ads, which he said constituted premature campaigning and violated Republic Act No. 9006 or the Fair Elections Act of 2001.

Fair play

�In the interest of fair play, and because we believe that it is the commission�s duty, all [media entities] should be ordered to instantly stop any and all advertising that would project [Pacquiao],� Brillantes said.

Brillantes also claimed the fight was �premeditatedly timed and scheduled to be held and conducted right in the middle and at the height of the 45-day campaign period.�

He said UNO wanted all media entities, as well as Pacquiao, �to instantly cease and desist in coming out with such unlawful prohibited advertising.�

He said newspapers, radio stations and television networks were giving the boxer �undue advantage� over his opponents in the congressional races, particularly Custodio.

Of national interest

�The violations committed will not only entail the [Pacquiao�s] disqualification but may also be in the nature of an election offense, that carries a criminal sanction,� the lawyer said.

Comelec Chair Benjamin Abalos Sr. earlier said he found no reason to prevent the airing of the bout since it was �imbued with national interest.�

Abalos said, however, that during the airing of the fight, as well as during the accompanying interviews and commentaries, Pacquiao�s candidacy should not be discussed.

�Pati ba naman ang karangalan sa bansa, kontrabida sila (Are they going to be villains even when the honor of our country is at stake)?� Pacquiao said in Los Angeles, California, reacting to Brillantes� earlier statement that he would seek a ban on the showing of the fight.

�They are turning this into a personal fight,� Pacquiao said in Filipino. �Everybody knows that boxing is my career. I am laying my life down in the ring for the honor of country without mixing it with politics.�

�They are really selfish. They do not have concern for the people. They are only concerned about themselves,� he said.

Pacquiao added: �Is that what Genuine Opposition means, stopping something that would unite and make Filipinos happy?� With a report from Salven L. Lagumbay

Copyright 2007 Mindanao Bureau. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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