By Jeannette Andrade, Tina Santos
MANILA, Philippines—Boxing champion Manny Pacquiao’s customary thanksgiving Mass at the Quiapo Church upon his return from another successful bout Saturday, turned into a mini protest rally against the controversial reproductive health (RH) bill.
Taking his cue from parish priest Msgr. Clemente Ignacio who advised him to brace for a new bout in the House of Representatives against the RH bill, the boxing hero, who is also Sarangani representative, attacked the RH bill as “disobedience to God’s laws.”
Pacquiao, with his wife Jinkee and former Manila Mayor Lito Atienza and former Ilocos Sur Gov. Chavit Singson, arrived at the Minor Basilica of the Black Nazarene at around 9 a.m. Saturday, for a Mass of thanksgiving for his victory over Sugar Shane Mosley last week.
In his homily, Ignacio criticized the RH bill and urged Pacquiao not to support it and stick to his stand opposing it in Congress.
Not the solution
He reminded Pacquiao to never forget the Lord in Congress and to serve as God’s way of bringing back members of the House to the fold.
When he spoke, Pacquiao vowed never to support the RH bill because he said it was against God’s laws. He said he has long been against the proposed law.
He said what the bill was proposing was not the solution to poverty and stressed that Congress must act primarily to address the needs of the poor.
The RH bill proposes to guarantee universal access to methods and information on birth control, particularly artificial means, and maternal care. The influential Catholic Church has strongly opposed the bill, claiming it to be immoral and encouraging abortion.
Pacquiao had arrived earlier that morning to a hero’s welcome at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (Naia) Terminal 2.
Rumors of steroid use
At an airport press conference, Pacquiao shrugged off rumors spreading on the Internet about his supposed steroid use.
“This could become a court case, I just might make money from this,” he said, laughing.
But Pacquiao said he would consult his lawyer about what legal steps he could take against those behind the nasty talks.
In 2009, Pacquiao filed a lawsuit in Las Vegas, accusing rival boxer Floyd Mayweather Jr. and others of defaming him by falsely saying that he used performance-enhancing drugs.
“My conscience is clear. I have done nothing except train hard. That is our only capital in a fight,” he said Saturday.
The rumor apparently started from an Internet report quoting an alleged Filipino sparring partner who claimed to have injected Pacquiao with steroids before his fight against Oscar de la Hoya.
It was reportedly picked up by Mosley, who reportedly spread it through his Twitter account.
Pacquiao stressed that he has never had Filipino sparring partners, only Mexicans.
Admiration for Mosley
He only had kind words for Mosley, however.
“Mosley is an educated man, he has respect for his fellow man. He is a good man, unlike others who may have had an education but have no respect for others. I admire Mosley,” he said.
Asked about his next fight, Pacquiao said the rumored third bout against his Mexican rival Juan Manuel Marquez will be interesting.
“It would be good if the rematch pushes through. I’m getting used to having bigger opponents. With Marquez, we’re evenly matched, it’s better,” he said.
He said he will be studying tapes of Marquez’s last two fights, in case the rematch does push through.
But Pacquiao stressed that the plans for the rematch have not yet been finalized.
He also said that retirement is still far from his mind. He said he would discuss the matter with his mother, Dionisia, who after his last bout made a public appeal for him to retire.
“We are going to talk. Like I said, I was not hurt at all in the last fight, with God’s help, not even a scratch in my face or body. That was a good fight, we can go on to the next one,” he said.
As for Jinkee, she said it was up to Pacquiao to decide when he would retire.
Asked who he would want to fight next should the rematch with Marquez fall through, Pacquiao said, “I don’t know yet, but one thing is sure, I will be fighting a boxer,” eliciting laughter from the crowd.
Pacquiao also said hotel heiress Paris Hilton, who had watched his fight in Las Vegas, will be visiting Manila in three months.
He said Hilton was no longer just his fan but was now Jinkee’s “text mate.”
Hermès for Mommy D
At the same presscon, Jinkee disclosed that Mommy Dionisia, who is celebrating her birthday Sunday, will get her wish—a Hermès bag.
“That’s what makes her happy, so we should give it to her because if there is no Mommy D., there will be no Manny Pacquiao,” Jinkee said.
Among those who waited for the champ at the airport were his children Michael, Jimuel, Princess and Queenie, who carried “Welcome banners” and presented their mother with Mother’s Day cards that they had made themselves.
“I’m happy that they had made preparations for me on Mother’s Day. I’m happy that they thought of me and missed me,” Jinkee said.
Pacquiao said his immediate plans include taking his children to Los Angeles for a holiday before the new school year begins.
To fight poverty
At the arrival area outside the airport, Pacquiao fans, some carrying “Welcome Home” messages, waited to get a glimpse of their idol.
“Thank you so much for your prayers and support. I’m happy that I was able to bring honor to our country. We Filipinos should be proud,” Pacquiao told the crowd.
He said he intends to continue his fight not just inside the boxing ring but also against poverty.