THE blows keep coming for Manny Pacquiao, two days after his anti-gay remarks.
Just hours after world sports apparel giant Nike severed ties with the boxing legend for his 'abhorrent' stand on same-sex marriages, Pacquiao now faces an even bigger challenge — disqualification from the senatorial race in the May elections.
Former activist turned congressman Walden Bello, a senatorial aspirant like Pacquiao, has urged the Commission on Elections (Comelec) to look into the legality of the Sarangani congressman's April 9 fight against Timothy Bradley falling within the campaign period for the national poll.
Bello insisted the media mileage Pacquiao is expected to get from the fight gives him an unfair advantage over other senatorial candidates and is therefore in clear violation of Comelec rules on allowable airtime for candidates.
"It is so unfair because the Comelec is so strict with the allowable airtime (for political ads), it's so unfair because Pacquiao will get a lot of minutes beyond that allowable time (with the coverage and run-up to that fight)," Bello told SPIN.ph.
The only solution is to postone the fight until after the elections, Bello said.
"Kailangan talagang sabihin ng Comelec kay Manny na move his fight to after the elections," he added, while insisting that as a Pacquiao fan, he'd like the fight to push through after the elections.
Bello even cited himself and other candidates as examples, saying he took a leave of absence from his column-writing duties with the Philippine Daily Inquirer when he ran for a partylist seat in 2013.
"If I follow the Comelec rule strictly, I expect that as good as a sportsman, he will also respect the rules. Otherwise, talagang magkaka-double standards tayo rito," he said.
"This is going to open up a whole caboodle of complaints if they will favor Manny. Sana walang double standards," added the 71-year old, adding he has been studying the petition since January.
Bello is also hopeful that other senatorial candidates and individuals will join him in his appeal for parity.
"I hope that they do because I think it's in their own interest that we'll have a level playing field," he said.
Asked if he thinks Pacquiao is a threat to his chances since the fighting congressman occupies the 8th to 10th spots in the latest survey, the former Akbayan representative said the results of surveys are beside the point.
"It's not a question of if it's threatening or not. Ang concern kasi namin is people live by the rules and walang advantages. He's popular. Pero dapat level ang playing field. The rules do not favor anybody. Kailangan na the Comelec should make a move," said Bello.
"Saka pwede namang i-urong yan (fight). I don't think it will be an issue and it will not be that complicated. It happens to fighters who injured himself in training," he added.
When told about the argument that Pacquiao's fights are a source of pride for the country, Bello was quick to disagree.
"Hindi para sa bayan yan. Para sa kanya. I've given some thought to this that it was premeditated (scheduling of the fight within the campaign period). It could have been set after the elections," he said.
Comelec chairman Andres Bautista, meanwhile, bared that commission's legal staff is already studying the matter.
"I already asked our lawyers to look into that issue," said Bautista. "He may be in the ballot, but it is still possible for a candidate to be disqualified. That has happened before."
Aside from Pacquiao, Bello is also monitoring other candidates who might defy the Comelec rule, including Rain or Shine coach Yeng Guiao who coaches in the PBA during the election period while running for a congressional seat in Pampanga.
"We'll look into that, the way it comes across to me at this point is 'Yes, (it is in violation of election laws).' But that is something we want to look at," Bello said.