Manny Pacquiao continued his campaign to become a senator in the Philippines Thursday, a day after his country’s president said terrorists who beheaded a Canadian hostage possibly sought to kidnap Pacquiao and his family and kill the president.
“I was alarmed when he announced... the Abu Sayyaf [militants] wanted to kidnap me. I’m surprised because all Filipinos are my friends. I love them, especially the Muslims,” Pacquiao said at his residence in Manila in a report by Philippine network ABS-CBN.
“We asked for security, protection for my kids, my family to make sure they are safe, especially as I’m not there right now,” said Pacquiao, who is currently a congressman and among the wealthiest sports celebrities in the world.
General Santos is part of the conflict-racked southern Philippine region of Mindanao, where an array of Islamic militant groups are based and a separatist insurgency has claimed tens of thousands of lives.
The Abu Sayyaf’s main stronghold islands are about 250 miles away from General Santos, according to ABS-CBN.
Associated Press reported Pacquiao had few visible security escorts as he campaigned in Laguna province, shaking hands and allowing mobs of villagers to take selfies with him.
Pacquiao, who said after an April 9 unanimous-decision triumph over Timothy Bradley in Las Vegas that he was retiring as a boxer, said in an Associated Press story that the intelligence report about the alleged kidnap plot should have been given to him confidentially instead of being announced publicly.
Aquino released the statement after the severed head of Canadian John Ridsdel was dumped Monday on Jolo island, a stronghold of Abu Sayyaf, according to ABS-CBN.
Pacquiao said in the report he was bewildered by Aquino’s statement, having not been informed personally before the president went public with the alleged plot.
“If it came from an intelligence report, it should have been kept secret and need not be announced. And why just now? We have to study this,” Pacquiao said in the ABS-CBN report.
“I doubt [the threat] but I’m not ignoring it,” he told reporters. “I live my life like every day is the last so I have no fear. God is with me.”