A SAD MIRROR OF PHILIPPINE SOCIETY
22 Sep 2013
Czar Amonsot’s recent PABA title win not only underscored the old adage that a boxer is just one fight away from turning his life around but also brought to mind distressing articles concerning the exploitation of Filipino boxers in Australia.
I searched the internet trying to find any follow up stories from down under regarding this matter but came up with nothing. What I found more disturbing when I reviewed articles on the subject was that news reports about the alleged perpetrator – Dido Bohol – were already published in 2010. Bohol was accused by Allan Jay Tuniacao of keeping Filipino boxers in slave-like conditions in a Sydney garage and being used as houseboys. And yet, three years later the same story re-emerged. Amonsot was one the boxers who was very vocal about their predicament.
I am not sure if this is still an open case or whether there was enough evidence for charges to be filed. I trust that the Australian authorities are doing their job.
But the problem obviously is not just on their end but here in the Philippines as well. How did these fighters wind up in Australia in the first place? International travel requires expensive plane tickets, passports, visa processing and work permits.
Is this really the handiwork of just one man?
In an exchange of e-mails with this writer, Amonsot’s trainer, Todd Makelim, said that this has been going on for years and he was very upset about the plight of the Filipino boxers.
Makelim said that “I believe in karma. I am so proud of the boys for what they have done. There has been so many boys who wanted to run away but didn't. I feel sorry for all the boys that use to call me and ask me if they could join my gym.”
Makelim mentioned names like Ranee Ganoy,Dondon Sultan, Leon Maratas and Jun Paderna. He believes there are around thirty boxers who had similar difficulties.
Filipino boxing enthusiasts also realize that this is not an isolated case and is not exactly new as far as exploitation of fighters is concerned.
Mismatches are a necessary evil in boxing. An up and coming fighter with the right manager and promoter always gets to feed on the usual soft touches. One prominent local referee pointed out to me a few years ago that the ring is no different from a jungle – there is a predator and there is a prey.
Many Filipino journeymen boxers wind up as prey locally or abroad. Every now and then a prey manages to strike back against the predator. But these moments are few and far in between. What is usually the script is that a destitute Filipino fighter winds up being the fall guy in some country here in Asia for a fistful of dollars that he can use to feed his family for less than a couple of months.
I am no longer surprised when I hear stories from trainers and boxers that they were not paid in full after an overseas bout.
Because of the immeasurable poverty level here in the Philippines, even our children wind up being devoured by predators. Those who have been keeping track of the front page news are familiar with what is happening in Cordova, Cebu, where even parents are using their own children to perform sex acts for pedophiles on the internet.
I was one of those being interviewed on television last July and asked to comment about the mistreatment of our boxers in Australia. To be honest, I was not prepared for most of the questions, one of which was “What can the government do to help these boxers? Boxing has brought honor to our country.”
That question got me thinking long and hard after the interview. What can the government really do? This situation happens outside of sports. It seems no one can stop illegal recruiters and human trafficking.
Filipinos taking advantage of other Filipinos is not new.
How many Filipinos workers wind up working illegally overseas? Every now and then we read news reports coming from the Middle East and elsewhere about a Filipina domestic helper being raped. How many of our women and children are trafficked and end up as sex workers?
This has been going on for decades. How many presidential candidates promised jobs and a better life for us Filipinos?
Through the decades, our flawed educational system made us into workers but not thinkers. Many Filipino parents send their kids to school dreaming that they will be dollar earners someday. Because of this, we are always at high risk of being exploited.
"Purchase of a Slave" -- a painting by French artist Jean-Leon Gerome (WikiPaintings.org).
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