Boxing icon Manny Pacquiao’s loss to Rep. Darlene Antonino-Custodio (see photo) in the congressional race in South Cotabato can be interpreted in many ways. I have my own views although I won’t talk about what the voters think considering that I am far from the battlefront.
Pacquiao, a neophyte politician, actually entered the lion’s den. While Darlene is good-looking and soft spoken, she is but the latest in a clan that has been in politics for a long time. Meaning, she is the Custodio’s latest political lion.
This reminds me of the misguided foray of the then popular radio personality Inday Nita Cortes Daluz into the fifth district of Cebu province controlled by the Durano clan. She and her advisers thought that her popularity in the province could translate into votes in the district.
But the dynamics in largely rural areas are different from those in urban centers. In a semi-feudal and feudal setup, voters do not vote based on popularity but act based on the socio-economic situation in the place. This means that voters are largely dependent on the dictates of land owners and other feudal lords.
Campaign strategy may have also mattered. Custodio wisely refused to tangle with Pacquiao head-on. That move of Custodio to welcome home Pacquiao after his win over Jorge Solis in their bout in San Antonio, Texas was a master stroke. It showed a humble, non-confrontational Darlene.
Pacquiao would later on flail wildly at Custodio. He accused her clan, for example, of planning to kill him. Darlene’s response? She cried a river. Looking at such a frail woman break down from Manny’s verbal attack turned the boxer into a bully.
Finally, there’s qualification. Political observers say that had Pacquiao chosen to run for mayor of General Santos City, he would have been more formidable. But he chose to run for Congress, a lawmaking body. It was immediately apparent who was the more qualified for the job.
The loss is, however, a blessing in disguise. Now Manny can concentrate more on his career, which is still at its peak. His loss in politics will surely be the boxing world’s gain.
—Candido Wenceslao, May 16, 2007