FOR THE nth time of being issued with a tardy slip in class, my default reason aside from waking up late is traffic jam.

Sandwiched at the middle of the busy street of Dapitan during rush hour, I chanced upon another queer political stratagem of local government officials to establish “name recall” this coming elections—jingle-sounding caravans.

Yet there are those lucky enough who don’t need cheesy gimmicks to garner votes from the electorates. Movie stars, singing sensations, hijos and hijas of veteran politicians and ex-actors, and yes, sports superstars who found their new battle in the political ring.

Among the sports personalities who will try courting the public for its sweet yes this coming “E-day” are Edu Manzano (vice president), Manny Pacquiao (congressman, Sarangani), Ato Agustin (councilor, San Fernando Pampanga), Yeng Guiao (vice governor, Pampanga), Joey Marquez (mayor, Parañaque), Atoy Co (councilor, Pasig), Jason Webb (councilor, Parañaque), Franz Pumaren (congressman, Quezon City third district), Binky Favis (councilor, Parañaque second district), Kenneth Duremdes (board member, Koronadal, South Cotabato) and others.

There is no existing law that prohibits sportsmen from filing their certificates of candidacy. No rule can also stop them from simultaneously holding office while playing or coaching. But can they really practice good governance without forsaking their athletic commitments? And more importantly, are their sports credentials enough to run a career in pubic office?

News about Pacquiao pursuing a congressional bid in his hometown General Santos last 2007 came as a shocker among his supporters and critics. There were a great number of enthusiasts who did not favor his candidacy because they want him spared of dirty politics. Fate made it easier for him to decide when his opponent Darlene Antonio-Custodio, the incumbent congresswoman of Gen San, won the elections. Now he’d be trying his luck once more, but this time, in Sarangani province while the issue about his retirement and a possible match against Floyd Mayweather Jr. is still dubious.

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There is no doubt about Pacman’s willingness to serve the nation. But “willing” is different from “able” because benevolence differs from omnipotence. In his case, he might be willing but not really able, not because of putative illiteracy or lack of experience but because of a sparse sense of priority. He cannot possibly concentrate in his congressional job in Sarangani while he is in Nevada suiting up for his next fight.

The “Big J” era is a perfect example of how people showed their undying support to the sportsmen turned politicians. Former senator Robert Jaworski, undisputedly the most-loved PBA Hall of Famer whose name and legacy defined Philippine basketball’s glory days won the elections in 1998, even though he ran as an independent candidate. Time and tradition proved that Filipinos have the tendency to be fanatics of the “hero syndrome.” The masses adore epics and fairytale endings, thinking that if these hardcourt heroes managed to save their teams from a do-or-die game, they could also do the same to the sinking economy of the country.

Colonialism may have much to do with this. Our ancestors were deceived to having been saved by the white knight after suffering years of oppression under the tyrants. And up to now, we still find it hard to move on and continue to wait for the anointed one, the hero, the savior.

Having the wrong notion of service is another cancer we have to fight. Notice that most of the athletes and coaches who pursued political affairs were just persuaded to run by their friends in politics. After months of soul-searching, they are convinced that they are qualified to serve in public office because they wanted to help and have the support of the people. Service is often regarded as a generic term but it’s not. It comes in different faces and unless we know how we’re meant to serve, the purpose of serving is defeated.

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This is not to discriminate and discourage us from voting our well-respected athletes and coaches but to help us decide in which arena do we really want to see them play and serve. It is wiser to choose only one because they might not be able to serve two masters at the same time.

Leave no room for hero worship this “E-day,” my fellow Thomasians. And the next time we’re caught in traffic, may we shut our ears to the promises of these jingle caravans and listen to the inner voice that speaks within us—our conscience.

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