Punch drunk: Pacquiao’s “platform” of government

Politicians will always have their way of promising the moon and the stars, as the old saying goes. But nothing prepared me to read that Senator Manny Pacquiao promised to wipe out the problem of illegal settlers — or commonly known as “squatters” — if and when he becomes President of the Republic. From the manner he made that promise, it would seem that he really believes his own propaganda. And that is the most dangerous thing that can happen to a politician: believing his or her own propaganda.

First things first.

On Thursday, Senator Aquilino Martin “Koko” Pimentel III broached in an interview with Karen Davila on the ANC YouTube channel that he considered Pacquiao “the best choice” for the PDP-Laban to field as presidential candidate in the 2022 national and local elections. “He has many plans… he has a good platform of government… many people have pledged their support to him for whatever position he seeks,” Pimentel said.

Pacquiao knows what it is to be poor, according to Pimentel. He’s experienced being dirt poor and sleeping on the pavement and now enjoys comfortable living in expensive subdivisions. “He’s seen it all,” he said in Tagalog.

And if Pacquiao would listen to him, he would urge him to declare his intention to run for President by July or August, he added.

There was a time when I held Koko Pimentel in high regard. Being the son of the late Aquilino “Nene” Pimentel, Jr., he comes with a good pedigree in principled politics. Koko was topnotcher in the 1989 Bar Examinations. And riding on the good name of his father, he became Senator of the Republic (after initially missing the 12th slot for more than half the term in his first try due to election fraud). At a young age, he rose to the Senate Presidency.

But a principled politician, Koko is not. He is not even a shadow of his father. He was quickly devoured by the corruption of the Senate and learned how to “play the game”. He became a loyal member of the “Den of Thieves”.

Nonetheless, that low perception of the guy didn’t quite prepare me to hear him speak about Manny Pacquiao as if the boxer is God’s gift to the Filipino people in 2022. His remarks in the Karen Davila interview were horrible, to say the least. He didn’t sound like a lawyer, much less a bar topnotcher. Koko spoke like a rotten traditional politician that his departed father despised.

How can he even say that Pacquiao is fit to be considered a presidential timber? Is it because of Pacquiao’s wealth and popularity? Has the standard of Koko’s measurement for a leader gone so low that he will now settle for a brawler without brains as his candidate?

I’m afraid Koko’s mental faculties may have suffered a short-circuit when he was infected with Covid-19 virus a year ago. Even the ordinary Filipino on the street would easily know that Pacquiao is not even fit to be a Senator. He was carried to this position only because of the people’s adulation for his success as a boxer. I must confess I was among those who voted for him; I thought it was a gift befitting his triumph over the many obstacles in life. But never did I expect Pacquiao to demonstrate anywhere near a capabality to be a good legislator.

Koko said Pacquiao has a platform of government. Please spell it out. And let Pacquiao face the Filipino people in a virtual townhall meeting so he can be asked questions live on social media. This will allow the electorate an opportunity to dissect that platform of government, if it does exist, and be persuaded by Pacquiao. As of now, I haven’t really encountered any “platform of government” other than this out-of-this-world promise to eradicate the problem of illegal settlers.

Perhaps Koko and Pacquiao can elaborate on this so-called platform. How does Pacquiao hope to accomplish it? I am sure that even if he spends his lifetime winnings as a boxer, he won’t be able to get past 5% of fulfilling that promise. It is completely delusional.

As the “intelligent” person between the two of them, Koko should counsel his friend that he will be the laughingstock of the country if he continues talking this way. Koko’s behavior is trash. His father is likely to turn in his grave at seeing his son deteriorate into the kind of politician he spent a lifetime trying to eradicate from our society.

‘No mas’?

Below is my press statement in reaction to the initiative of Senator Koko Pimental to cut short the Blue Ribbon Committee investigation into the anomalous Iloilo Convention Center project:

Is the Liberal Party declaring “no mas” in the face of emerging evidence validating my assertions that the bidding and implementation of the Iloilo Convention Center was marred by irregularities such as rigging of the bid and overpricing?

That is the signal being sent by the move of Senator Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III to bring the Blue Ribbon Committee investigation into these issues to an abrupt halt.
Far from the claim of Senate President Franklin Drilon and his party mates that I failed to present evidence to back up my allegations, I have proof and this was strengthened by the testimonies of DPWH Secretary Rogelio Singson and DOT Secretary Ramon Jimenez in last Thursday’s hearing.
On the issue of overpricing:
1) In computing the unit cost for the building, Singson included the roof deck area to arrive at a figure of 11,900 sqm. Even assuming that this is true, the unit cost is still P63,000 per sqm, which is more than double the industry standard of P30,000 per sqm. Singson insists the industry standard cannot be applied to government infrastructure. But he could not explain why it is more than double the P26,000 per sqm. of the SMX n the Mall of Asia.
2. The real floor area of the ICC is 8,932 sqm. based on the Invitation to Bid published by the DPWH in the Manila Standard Today on July 5, 2013 in describing the scope of works for the completion of the structure. If this figure is used, and this is the figure upon which the unit cost should be based, the construction cost would amount to P84,000 per sqm. That is glaring evidence of overpricing.
3. In his testimony, Singson said DPWH is trying to bring down the unit cost to P55,000 per sqm.  That is an admission of overpricing. If that is going to happen, DPWH will be able to slash P95.2 million from the total contract price based on 11,900 sqm as base floor area. That is equivalent to 13% of the present estimated project cost to P747 million.
4. If the unit cost goes down to P55,000 per sqm. and we use the actual floor area of 8,932 sqm., then the overprice is still a whooping P72 million.
5. Singson testified that the architectural design made provisions for an additional two floors, which is why the foundation had to be strengthened. This is a case of over design of the specifications to justify the supposed need for more pile driving. The allocation for pile driving and foundation work in the presentation of Singson is P107,000,000. But the design of the building makes additional floors impractical and unnecessary. The symmetry and balance of the “iconic architecture” would be upset, and it would lose the unique design to make it attractive.
6. By Singson’s own testimony, the overpricing of the project becomes apparent, and the Liberal Party doesn’t want to expose the Senate President to more embarrassment as what happened in last Thursday’s hearing.
On the issue of malversation and plunder:
1. Based on the above presentation, the overprice ranges from at least P74 milliion to P95 million, or even more, depending on further examination of the building plans by technical personnel of the Commission on Audit. The malversation of amounts more than P50 million is plunder. As this is a conspiracy, the act of one is the act of all.
2. No less than Senate President Drilon admitted how deep his involvement in the project is. In fact, during the hearing last Thursday, he was heard “cuing” Singson and Jimenez with their answers. He chided Senator Nancy Binay at one point, forgetting that he had inhibited himself from the hearing, and was there as a resource person. Senator Serge Osmena also took a swipe at him for trying to interject for Jimenez who found difficulty answering the questions the Cebuano senator threw at him. His own actions betrayed the truth that his involvement was more than looking for funds. It took on the nature of ownership, and he could not extricate himself from the issue that he meddled in every aspect of the implementaton.
It would be tragic if the Liberal Party bury the truth by simply shutting the door to a deeper inquiry. It will have abdicated its mandate for oversight, accountability and good governance. By itself, terminating the inquiry at a time when more questions emerged than were answered would be tantamount to betrayal of public trust.