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President Arroyo has named Filipino boxing champion Manny Pacquiao as the country’s “Ambassador for Peace and Understanding” in an elaborate homecoming ceremony at Malacañang yesterday.The homegrown boxing hero was also tapped by the government as a “glorified asset” in its intelligence affairs and designated him as special assistant to Secretary of Justice Raul Gonzalez.
Meanwhile, tens of thousands lined the streets of the metropolis to welcome the boxing superstar who had earlier defied a government request to stay in the US over fears of the dreaded A(H1N1) influenza virus.
Pacquiao arrived at the Palace grounds at 10:45 a.m. in a motorcade and was met by Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita.
He was then escorted to the Music Room where he was received by Mrs. Arroyo and First Gentleman Jose Miguel Arroyo. The Filipino boxing champion gave the First Couple blue jackets from Team Pacquiao.
Pacquiao was also presented by Palace chefs with a 28-pound chocolate cake that had a candy replica of his belt as decoration.
Ermita read the proclamation declaring a National Day of Celebration for Pacquiao’s victory.
Under department order no. 344 signed by Gonzalez, Pacquiao was tasked to coordinate with the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) and provide intelligence reports “in the interest of public service and pursuant to the provisions of existing laws.”
Gonzalez told reporters last night that the boxing champion would not receive a salary from the government. He said Pacquiao was given an official designation in government simply because “he deserves it.”
“He said he wanted to help the government in whatever way he could. He was asking for it (a designation) and it wasn’t hard for us to give it anyway,” he stressed.
The Justice chief said he has known Pacquiao for a long time and personally knows that the latter would be able to help government because of his access to information that may be crucial to some cases being handled by the DOJ.
Gonzalez also said that the boxing champion could be a big help to programs and campaigns of the Justice department because he is well respected in Visayas and Mindanao.
Pacquiao, however, was not given any specific assignment.
Gonzalez recalled that he already was considering giving the popular boxing champion the honorary directorship of his department’s action center.