After coming home from a triumphant fight in Macau, Manny Pacquiao was floored with a knockout-like freeze of his bank accounts.
BIR Commissioner Kim Henares claimed that the deadly punch was something that Pacman knew was coming – the government has been hounding him for tax deficiencies for the past two years.
Pacquiao claims he has been faithful in settling his local taxes. Henares replies with an emphatic “nope”.
Henares may be right. Paquiao may need to pay up.
It’s a complicated P2.2-billion case so let’s skip the details.
What’s more interesting is what we have here: a classic public relations “face-off” that the government can NEVER win. Here’s why:
1. Pacquiao is not only the People’s Champ… he is also the People’s Escape. Ours is a teleserye country – where 90% of the population are barely surviving. The teleserye is the unbeatable escapist fare for them. The formulaic format espouses the myth that though we fall and suffer and are abused/hurt by others, we will overcome our sufferings and become any of the following: 1) rich, 2) good-looking, 3) loved and admired, 4) empowered to exact revenge, 5) destined to live happily ever after.
All these aspirational elements exactly mirror Pacquiao’s real life story. A boy from a poor family… who runs away from home… homeless and hungry… taking on odd jobs… dabbling in boxing – though he’s thin as a reed… and impresses the whole world by becoming an 8-division world champ. Absolutely, no Filipino CANNOT relate with that.
Like it or not, Pacquiao is today’s FPJ. He is perceived as a hero while the other protagonist (the government) is seen as inept and crooked, drastically heightened by the barrage of scams (PDAP, DAP) that have surfaced.
2. The timing is extremely off — like making Pepe Smith sing “The Prayer” at a very solemn High Mass. The country is reeling from the most powerful storm that ever hit the planet. Victims are desolate and feeling hopeless and abandoned – same (to a slightly lesser degree) with their countrymen from other parts of the archipelago. Pacquiao’s recent victory was a really big deal – giving the nation a brief respite from its miseries… a tiny, momentary burst of euphoria and a rise in morale by several notches.
They perceive Pacman’s recovery and triumph as a “sign” that all will be well again. To suddenly see the “sign” being roughed up is courting unwanted collective anger.
3. Pacquiao is saying and doing all the right things. Despite always being seen with not-very-popular, forever gum-chewing Governor Singson, Pacman has an ouido for wining hearts and minds. His heroics in the ring send positive vibes all around – something the fumbling, indecisive leaders of government can only wish for.
And the champ is up against the government’s spin doctors who are virtually “unarmed” – being mostly “society boys” and “anak-mayamans” who have never gone hungry in their lives and have never truly felt the meaning of angst.
How can they top a sound bite like this: “My money that was garnished by the BIR was not stolen, it’s not PDAF or DAP. It came from all the punches, sweat and blood that I endured in boxing.”
I rest my case.