Manny Pacquiao has strengthened security around his family in the wake of claims made by the Philippines president on Wednesday that he was the alleged target of a kidnap plot by Islamic militants.
Speaking for the first time since the news of the apparent plot was made public, Pacquiao said he was upset by the gravity of the report and that he didn’t know why the president announced it instead of handling the news more discreetly.
Philippines president Benigno Aquino III said on Wednesday that Abu Sayyaf, a terrorist group accused of recently beheading a Canadian hostage, may have been plotting to kidnap the superstar boxer or one of his five children.
“I was alarmed when he announcedÔÇªthe Abu Sayyaf (militants) wanted to kidnap me,” Pacquiao said from Manila, according to the international news agency Agence France-Presse (AFP). “I’m surprised because all Filipinos are my friends. I love them, especially the Muslims.”
Aquino described the terrorist group as operating in Manila and trying to gain the attention of the Islamic State, according to a report on the Philippines website ABS-CBN on Thursday. The Associated Press reported that Pacquiao, who is in the midst of a senatorial campaign in next month’s Philippines elections, had little noticeable security around him in the Laguna province in a southern region of the country as he took selfies with villagers.
Pacquiao, one of the most famous and wealthiest athletes in the world, said he wasn’t taking any chances by beefing up protection around his family in his hometown of General Santos City. Abu Sayyaf has a strong base of operations 250 miles away from General Santos, according to AFP. “We asked for security, protection for my kids, my family to make sure they are safe, especially as I’m not there right now,” Pacquiao said.
Pacquiao didn’t understand why President Aquino decided to go public with the news. “If it came from an intelligence report, it should have been kept secret and need not be announced,” he said. “And why just now? We have to study this.”
The 37-year-old, who is an evangelical Christian, doesn’t plan on suspending his campaign in light of the news. “I doubt (the threat) but I’m not ignoring it,” he said. “I live my life like every day is the last so I have no fear. God is with me.”
Pacquiao has announced his fight with Timothy Bradley on April 9 is his last fight. His longtime promoter, Bob Arum spoke of the alleged plot on Thursday before a press conference in Manhattan. “It came as a big a shock to me as anyone else,” Arum told a small group of reporters, including RingTV.com. “Pacquiao knew nothing about it. Why the president chose this way to announce it — what do I know? Like Pacquiao says, why wouldn’t the president tell him in confidence first before he announces it?”
Continued Arum, “Pacquiao has been known to have an outreach to the Muslims in the Philippines. So that’s why he said he can’t believe that they would be thinking of kidnaping me and my family.”