Every time boxing great, Manny Pacquiao, finds himself embroiled in some controversial issue outside of boxing it always seem to divide the nation.
That is the price of being a world-wide boxing icon and a celebrity. One can also include that of being an actor, a singer, a preacher, a billionaire and most notably now, a politician, having been elected Congressman representing the province of Sarangani.
Pacquiao’s colorful life is a classic rag-to-riches and prominence story that anyone aspiring for a better quality life would try emulating. The fact, however, is that not all are gifted like Pacquiao, and while others succeed in a small measure, the rest are resigned to their fate that they won’t make it.
But, Pacquiao will always remain an inspiration to many for his greatness in the ring and the Filipinos will always be grateful for the honor he has given this country in the field of boxing.
And, that is how far as it goes.
It is one thing to earn the respect of the whole nation as a strong and skillful boxer, and it is another earning the respect of a nation as an exemplary citizen of the republic and a politician/lawmaker to boot.
This is what the latest Pacquiao-Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) brouhaha is all about.
Pacquiao’s integrity is being put on question here as the BIR simply wants him to comply with his obligation, as a citizen of this country – to pay taxes.
What is making this controversy messy and helped magnify the issue is that it blew up when the country is still reeling from the onslaught of super typhoon Yolanda/Haiyan that devastated many parts of central Visayas where Pacquiao has promised to visit and bring help to the victims right after winning his latest boxing bout against Brandon Rios in Macau.
Being hit by the BIR’s claim that he has failed to pay tax on his 2008-2009 mega-bucks winnings, Pacquiao instead cried foul for a low blow, saying that he had been ‘singled out’, thus, he could not help much the typhoon victims on a borrowed money.
Why not go instead after those who benefited from the PDAF and DAP, which understandably are people belonging to his own ilk in Congress?
Pacquiao thinks he is above board.
His dramatics may have struck the chords of public sympathy, he being considered a hero in this country that idolizes actors, big names, big shots and even the notorious.
But is Pacquiao really telling the truth?
On the other hand, BIR Commissioner Kim Henares insists that her tax agency has been waiting for Pacquiao for two years to settle his unpaid income tax returns in 2009 before they filed the garnishment orders freezing Pacquiao’s bank accounts this week.
Henares said that Pacquiao had even under declared his income in 2009, noting that based on his Income Tax Return, Pacquiao declared only less than P50 million of income in 2009, with no declared income from the U.S.
“Pacquiao should have declared close to P1 billion income in 2009… Hindi niya idineklara ang kita niya sa Amerika. Ipakita niya ang 2009 return (ITR) niya para malaman nagsasabi ng totoo (He did not declare his income from US in 2009. Show it to us to know who is telling the truth),” she said.
Saying they are just implementing the law, Henares said if Pacquiao has indeed paid his income tax in the US, he just needed to file the certified true copy to the tax agency directly. She also took a swipe at Pacquiao’s boxing promoter, Bob Arum, who said it would take at least three months to produce the documents from the US Internal Revenue System. Henares said if what Arum said was true, how come the BIR had to wait for two years for them to submit the needed documents.
This is self-explanatory and that is how simple as it can get.
It is not about wrong timing and knocking him down with a tax case.
It is more about coming out clean, decent and indubitable in his intentions, considering Pacquiao’s stature in public.
I could not amplify further what has been elaborately explained.
Suffice to say that whether one is a hero or not, taxes, like death, is going to be part of one’s existence.
That is reality and skirting from it does not make one a role model, which Pacquiao desperately wants to be.
Besides, look who continues to be Pacquiao’s friends?