Boxing champion and Senator Manny Pacquiao filed a bill that sought for the Congress to grant Philippine citizenship to Russian freestyle wrestling champion Egor Dmitriev.
Senate Bill 969, otherwise known as “An Act Granting Philippine Citizenship to Egor Dmitriev,” aims to naturalize the 27-year-old Russian athlete who has expressed his interest in joining and competing for the country’s wrestling team.
The proposed measure also states that Dmitriev “wishes to train and teach the National Wrestling Team in order to further hone their skills and develop their talents.”
Pacquiao introduced the bill in an attempt to improve the Philippines’ wrestling landscape, citing its “minimal involvement” in the international arena.
“Due to the lack of programs, technology, training, equipment, promotion, and pool of athletes in this Olympic sport, the country is in a competitive disadvantage,” the explanatory note of the bill says.
“With this, foreign athletes can help in honing the development and skills of this sport,” it added.
The bill also claimed that it has been a “trend” to naturalize foreign athletes “for the purpose of gaining an advantage in competitions and for the growth of the sport in the country.”
Some Filipinos, however, were not too happy with the proposal.
Pacquiao introduced Senate Bill 969 “An Act Granting Philippine Citizenship To Egor Dmitriev”
Who the hell is Dmitriev?
He’s a Russian freestyle wrestling champion who has expressed interest in joining the PH wrestling team &compete for the country.
👏🏼👏🏼 Pro-poor programs!
— shamrocker☘ (@shamrocker_oo_) August 29, 2019
A Twitter user in the comments thread wrote that the boxer-politician should support Filipino athletes instead of relying on foreigners if he really wanted to improve the country’s sports landscape.
“Sa halip na suportahan nang tama ang mga atleta ng bayan, aasa na lang sa mga dugong dayuhan para mabigyan ng karangalan ang Inang Bayan. Huwad na karangalan!” he said.
Another user stressed, “Dapat ang binibigyan ng puwang para umangat ay ‘yung kapwa mo Pilipinong atleta.”
Some pointed out that Pacquiao should prioritize national issues directly concerning Filipinos.
“Galing ni senator… pano ‘yung national issues? Nga nga?” a user said.
Dmitriev is a 27-years-old Russian Federation (Sakha Republic) freestyle wrestling champion who has competed in several events held by the United World Wrestling, the governing body overseeing wrestling in the Olympics and world championships.
Other than that, not much is known about him based on Google search results.
Pacquiao and his bills
This is not the first time that Pacquiao filled a legislative measure that gained unsavory reactions from his fellow Filipinos.
He also authored Republic Act 11163 or “The National Bible Act” that mandates every last Monday of January will be a special holiday meant to celebrate Christian faith and observe teachings of the Holy Bible.
Pacquiao, a fervent Christian, reasoned that the holiday is an opportunity to share the religious book’s teachings which he claimed would lead toward nation-building.
When the bill was passed in the upper chamber, Twitterverse slammed him for what they claimed was an inconsequential legislature.
Gaano ka-consequential ang "National Bible Day" legislation ni Pacquiao? Ano'ng layon? Ano'ng point?
— J.G (@bebemomoy) February 6, 2018
National Bible Day? Really? Though this nation is predominantly Catholic, the laws are not based on the scriptures. This is a secular nation.
— a d a (@nostaIgiabIues) February 6, 2018
Last year, political pundits and different public figures were embroiled in an online debate that involved Pacquiao’s persona as a world-renowned boxer and a Philippine senator following his achievement as a WBA welterweight champion.
Some argued that lauding Pacquiao’s victory in sports was tantamount to tolerating his controversial political positions, most notably in supporting the death penalty and in criticizing the LGBTQ community.
Others claimed that his personas should be treated separately, considering he has put the country in the spotlight several times for his boxing exploits.
Similar conversations have sprung in the United States, where once-lauded artists are now facing criticisms for alleged misconducts that prompted a discussion on whether they still deserved recognition for their works or not.