As a boxing fan, I’ve been following the burgeoning myth of Philippine fighter Manny Pacquiao, and after last weekend’s second-round knockout of Ricky Hatton—giving Pacquiao a world title in his fifth weight class—it seems the myth may actually be justified. I mean, we knew he was good, but this good? Dang. (Of course, even though Pacquiao’s style is one of speed and precision, boxing being what it is, the sport’s essential brutality was also on view.)
Now, boxing is no stranger to scandal, but a musical scandal is something new. Philippine pop star Martin Nievera was on hand to sing “Lupang Hinirang,” the Philippine national anthem. (For comparison, Tom Jones sang “God Save the Queen.”) And now Nievera is in trouble for it.
A lawmaker on Wednesday said he intends to file criminal charges against Martin Nievera over the singer’s rendition of the Philippine national anthem during the Pacquiao-Hatton fight in Las Vegas last Sunday.
In a weekly press conference, Cavite Rep. Elpidio Barzaga Jr. said the “test case” would determine if Nievera indeed violated Republic Act 8491, or the Flag and Heraldic Code of the Philippines, which states that the national anthem should be played or sung in accordance with the musical arrangement of its composer, Julian Felipe.
The NHI, the government agency tasked to ensure that national symbols are given the reverence and respect they deserve, said Martin should not have slowed down the song’s opening and ending. The NHI added the singer should have sung the song in accordance with composer Julian Felipe’s “march-type” tempo.
Good heavens, they probably would have dropped Marvin Gaye into a volcano or something. Anyway, there might be a less exalted political angle to this as well—Pacquiao’s political ambitions are no secret—though trying to untangle the alliances is a little dizzying. (The lawmaker planning to file charges is a member of the KAMPI party, which last year merged with President Gloria Arroyo’s Lakas-Christian Muslim Democratic Party; Pacquiao was floated as a Lakas-CMD candidate, but instead joined the Liberal Party, which nonetheless supported Arroyo in coalition; in Pacquiao’s only campaign thus far, he was soundly defeated by Darlene Antonino-Custodio, a prominent member of the one-half of the Nationalist People’s Coalition that didn’t support Arroyo, &c., &c.) For his part, Nievera claims no disrespect, and in fact just the opposite: “I will not apologize for giving my all just to sing that song in front of the world,” he said. Come on, even his in-ear monitor had a Philippine flag on it.