Sunday, December 27, 2009

Why Pacquiao Should Not Give In

Manny Pacquiao has proven himself on the ring many times already that a fight with Floyd Mayweather, Jr. - although it would certainly add more laurels to his cap, not to mention money to his already bulging pockets, if he were to win and there's a big chance that he just might - is not really something to crave for, especially so in the face of the harassment, denigration and character assassination he is now taking from the Mayweather camp.

Some people are wondering why Pacquiao would not want a miniscule amount of blood taken from him close to the scheduled fight on March 13 if he is not taking any steroids or other performance enhancing drugs. In fact this is the line being drumbeaten by Golden Boy Promotion's Oscar Dela Hoya in his blog. The easy answer is that Pacquiao need not give in to each and every demand by Mayweather, especially so if Pacquiao has complied with and passed with flying colors each and every testing requirement of the Nevada Athletic Commission in (NAC) determining if boxers are clean before being issued their licenses.

Nevertheless, despite his unquestioned record since turning pro - that is until Mayweather decided to blemish it with baseless accusations - Pacquiao is willing to submit to blood tests on three occasions, viz: in January when the supposed match will be announced, earlier than 30 days before the fight, and in the locker room immediately after the fight. As observed by one sports writer, what could not be detected by a blood test done immediately after the fight that a test done before it would reveal if indeed Pacquiao were using steroids? Mayweather's refusal to this condition, as a compromise to his unreasonable demand, would only show that his only intention is to harass and subject Pacquiao to humiliation.

It is true that urine tests alone cannot detect some performance enhancing drugs, such as human growth hormone (HGH) injections, but then the testing protocols of the US Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) being proposed by Mayweather are not the tests being administered for boxers by the NAC. Lest I be mistaken, the NAC also administers blood testing and Pacquiao has always submitted to such tests before in securing and renewing his license. If the NAC's testing protocols are being challenged as insufficient or unreliable in determining whether a boxer is clean, is the Mayweather camp then saying that a whole line of other boxers who have shone on the ring, Dela Hoya included, also have questionable successes?

There is no question that Manny Pacquiao has already achieved sterling success as a boxer. He is the reigning pound for pound boxer in the world, ranking number one in many boxing magazines, including the prestigious Ring Magazine; he has been featured several times in Time magazine, among them are when he was included among the top 100 persons of the year and when he was featured on the cover of its Asia edition. He is now considered as a boxing all-time-great by boxing's respectable commentators and analysts and is even being compared with the likes of boxing legend Muhammad Ali and Sugar Ray Leonard, among others.

Floyd Mayweather, Jr., on the other hand, has not had such recognition. It is true that he remains undefeated, but that only speaks of the selectiveness of his bouts. Unlike Pacquiao, Mayweather has been known to pick only fighters that he can take. And unlike Pacquiao, he fights dull matches and preys only on his opponents' unguarded moments. In other words he plays it safe. Pacquiao, on the other hand, has taken on seemingly tough fighters for his built, size and weight. He has ventured into the unimaginable by competing in matches that boxing analysts thought were ridiculous and lopsided against Pacquiao, only to find themselves proven devastatingly wrong as each and every fight turned out completely the opposite with Pacquiao demolishing his opponents. Unlike Mayweather, Pacquiao charges even when his opponent is on the guard and ready for him, prevailing in the end as a true testament to his mettle and skills.

So what has Pacquiao to prove more? Nothing. He has done boxing a great service. He has revived a dying sport, when fans have moved on to the more violent mixed martial arts genre. As the recognized and reigning best pound for pound fighter and the welterweight champion, it is not up to him to give in to unreasonable and unnecessary demands. If Mayweather really wants to face Pacquiao, he should do it in accordance with the prevailing rules of professional boxing. In fact, if there is anyone who should dictate terms, it is Pacquiao and not the other way around.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Just Lynch Ampatuan, Jr.

The National Press Club (NPC) has decried lawyer Sigfried Fortun's decision to defend Datu Unsay Mayor Andal Ampatuan, Jr., suspect on the Maguindanao massacre that claimed the lives of 57 people, including 30 journalists. It is even reportedly contemplating on declaring Fortun as a persona non grata and banning him from attending all media events.

While the Maguindanao massacre should be condemned in the strongest possible terms, we must not let our emotions get the better part of us. However strong the evidence may be against Ampatuan, Jr., no less than our Constitution presumes his innocence until evidence to the contrary is proven. Due process requires that he be given his day in court, accorded a fair trial and only after evidence for or against his innocence is presented that he may validly be judged either innocent or guilty.

In the midst of all these substantive and procedural safeguards, Ampatuan, Jr. is entitled to competent legal representation. Fortun is merely performing his legal duty as an officer of the court whose oath requires him to defend any person accused of a crime. Instead of being condemned, Fortun should even be lauded for helping make the judicial system work and go about its business of dispensing justice. Imagine if no one would represent Ampatuan, Jr. Given the seriousness of the charges against him, it is highly unlikely that the court will proceed without him being represented by a lawyer, especially so that he has preferred to be represented by one. This will definitely not be good as trial will be postponed indefintely and consequently delay the victims' relatives' - including the NPC's - plea for justice.

What alternatives do the NPC and those people who condemn Fortun for defending Ampatuan, Jr. have? If Fortun is taken out of the picture, most assuredly someone will take his position if the trial against Ampatuan, Jr. were to proceed. If no one will voluntarily represent Ampatuan, Jr., the court trying the case will be forced to appoint someone. Now, will the NPC also decry and declare as persona non grata the person who will be appointed as new defense counsel? How about the judge who will appoint the lawyer, will she also be condemned considering that she will be instrumental in giving Ampatuan, Jr. someone who will defend him?

Perhaps we should just lynch Ampatuan, Jr. and strike-off from our Constitution and statutes book due process protections and abolish our courts altogether. I am not saying this is what the NPC wants as well as those oppose to Fortun and lawyers defending undesirable people, but come to think of it this is precisely the implication of not wanting accused people to be given their day in court and accorded competent legal representation.

Were the court to deny Ampatuan, Jr. his right to legal representation and force him to defend himself, aside from violating his constitutional right to have a counsel of his own choice, the court would be prejudging his guilt already, for why would the court refuse to deny such representation if not dictated by the conviction that he is guilty of the crimes charged against him? This is not the kind of court we would like to dispense justice for us.

To be sure, there is someone out there crying how could Fortun, or any lawyer for that matter, defend a monster like Ampatuan, Jr? Some people may not buy it, but it is not for the lawyer to judge his or her client; that is a matter for the court to decide. Unless we want to go back to the age of trial by ordeal - where a person's guilt or innocence is decided in strange ways, such as being pronounced innocent if a person submerged in water does not drown or guilty if he does, or innocent if the accused's hands heal within certain days after suffering injuries from being dipped in boiling water or being pronounced guilty if the accused loses in a duel - we have to settle to the fact that we now have a judicial system that allocates responsibilities to different participants for the purpose of painstakingly ascertaining the facts and circumstances of a case to determine who is innocent or guilty.

A criminal defense lawyer, like Fortun, performs the essential function of ensuring that a person is not unjustly accused and that only after proof beyond reasonable doubt is established may an accused person be adjudged guilty and penalized. In essence he represents the criminal justice system, as much as the public prosecutor does.

If justice were to be dispensed, Andal Ampatuan, Jr. - like any other suspect and without regard to his guilt or innocence - deserves to be represented by a competent counsel of his own choice. To borrow the words of US President Obama, there is no incompatibility between our safety and ideals. We must not throw away the legal protections provided by the Constitution in our quest for justice, however reprehensible the charges against an accused person are.

Having said the foregoing, it is hoped that Atty. Fortun will stand only by what is just, ethical and proper in proceeding with the defense of his client. While he is expected to exercise utmost zeal and dedication in the defense of his client, his oath also dictates that he should not delay the cause of justice and defend his client using only fair, honest and legally permissible means.