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Thursday, February 11, 2010

Pacquiao Watch: The fight is on (in Sarangani)

by Edwin Espejo

The Philippine election body (Commission on Elections – Comelec) recently dismissed the petition by the lawyers of Filipino boxing champion Manny Pacquiao to disqualify Roy Chiongbian as candidate for the congressional seat the latter’s elder brother Erwin will be vacating come June 30.

The Pacquiao petition is one of the many ill-advised moves made by Manny’s legal team.

Sarangani was created 18 years ago through a bill sponsored by Roy’s late father James Chiongbian. Except for a three-year vacuum (1998-2001) when Lucile Chiongbian-Solon lost to Juan Domino, the Chiongbians have firmly controlled representation for Sarangani in the Philippine Congress.

Domino, by the way, was disqualified even though he won against Roy’s elder sister for lack of residency.

Roy Chiongbian has been anointed by his family to carry the torch their father left behind. Roy’s mother Priscilla was the first governor of the province and was undefeated for three consecutive terms.

Those should have been strong arguments already against the filing of the disqualification case.

Roy has conceded he was seldom seen in the province for several years. He was the chief executive officer of the vast conglomerate their family owned and thus was assigned to their head offices in Metro Manila.

Pacquiao, on the other hand, is a long time resident of General Santos. He ran and lost in 2007 against outgoing Rep. Darlene Antonino-Custodio by a wide margin.

Manny transferred his “official residence” in Quezon City not long before that loss.

His close political allies and friends however persuaded him to try his luck in Sarangani, hometown of his wife Jinky Jamora.

Before he left to fight Briton Ricky Hatton early last year, Pacquiao filed his transfer of residency in Kiamba town in Sarangani.

Of course, everybody knew that except for brief periods, and especially when Roy and Manny expressed their desire to run for the lone congressional seat of the province, both were hardly seen in their “adopted” hometowns. (Roy Chiongbian is a registered voter in Kiamba like Manny).

The expected Comelec decision to dismiss Pacquiao’s petition only weakens Manny’s claim that Roy has never been a resident of Kiamba although their family owns a house in Kling village where their plantation is located.

As a consequence, that decision gave Roy a weapon of defense against the expected issue branding him as an “absentee resident.”

Had Pacquiao’s lawyers and political advisers left the situation as it is and was, they still could have put Roy on the defensive sans the petition and Roy would have found himself defending his status as a resident of Sarangani.

Well, water is now under the bridge and Manny will have to slug his way against the combined and formidable machineries of the Chiongbians and re-electionist Sarangani Governor Miguel Rene Dominguez.


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