MANILA — The Commission on Elections (Comelec) gives Senatorial bet Rep. Manny Pacquiao five days within which to answer the petition filed against him by senatorial candidate Walden Bello for possible violation of election laws in connection with his forthcoming match with American boxer Timothy Bradley.

Comelec Chairman Juan Andres Bautista noted that they decided to adopt one of the recommendations of their Law Department, to ask the Filipino boxing icon to comment on the petition.

He said that Pacquiao had five days, upon receipt of the order, to submit his comment after which the poll body would issue a decision.

“After the comment is filed, we will take it up again in the en banc. We have to decide ASAP given that the fight is set on April 9,” Bautista said in a press briefing.

According to Bello, the fight would provide Pacquiao a “distinct advantage” over fellow senatorial bets since it would involve extensive media coverage both local and international, the massive exposure afforded to Pacquiao as a boxer and a candidate, and the income that can be earned by Pacquiao from the pay-per-view revenue and the product endorsements airing during the fight.

The Pacquiao-Bradley match will be held at the MGM Grand Garden in Las Vegas, USA on April 9, one month before the May national and local polls.

With this, the poll body chief opined that they cannot stop the boxing fight despite having omnibus election powers.

“You have to distinguish the fight from the fact that it is being broadcasted in the Philippines. Personally, I don’t think we can prohibit Pacquiao from boxing. That is his profession,” Bautista explained.

But, he noted that they might have control regarding the expected media coverage during the match.

“It’s not the question of his boxing. Question is, is there a violation of the Fair Elections Act by the fact that he’s running for national office and that he gets this kind of TV exposure?” he said.

Bautista issued the statement after former senator Rene Saguisag sent a letter asking the commission to advise Pacquiao to reset the fight.

In a one-page letter, the former lawmaker asked the poll body to prevent the Saranggani Congressman take advantage of possible loopholes in the law.

“We cannot have this, histraining and willy-nilly, getting free publicity, in this scofflaw nation. Please advise him to reset the fight,” Saguisag said.

He added, “This plea, with all you have to do, is essentially to make sure that Manny does not enjoy unfair advantage by circumvention. What he may not do directly, he may not do indirectly.” Ferdinand Patinio/PNA/