Philippine boxing superstar Manny Pacquiao is speaking out about an alleged plot by an Islamist militant group to kidnap him.
According to Newsweek, President Benigno Aquino III said the Abu Sayyaf, a terrorist group based in the Philippines, plotted to kidnap Pacquiao and one of his children and had threatened similar crimes against the president and his family.
Channel News Asia reports Pacquiao was shocked at the president’s statement.
“I was alarmed when he announced… the Abu Sayyaf wanted to kidnap me,” Pacquiao said at his home in Manila. “I’m surprised because all Filipinos are my friends. I love them, especially the Muslims.”
“I don’t believe our Muslim brothers [would] do that,” he continued. “We support them, we give them livelihood, so I don’t know where that came from.”
Pacquiao has a strong personal relationship with Jesus Christ. The stand-out boxer is close to retirement; he is hoping in the May elections to become a senator in the Philippines.
He said he was not concerned about his personal safety and that he would stay on the campaign trail where he’s greeted by large crowds.
“I live my life like every day is the last so I have no fear. God is with me,” he said.
However, Pacquiao said he took unspecified security measures to protect his wife and five children.
“We asked for security, protection for my kids, my family to make sure they are safe, especially as I’m not there right now,” he said.
“This is an attempt to silence his voice,” Rev. Samuel Rodriguez, president of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference (NHCLC), told CBN News. “This is. He is a strong prophetic voice in the 21st century — one of the greatest fighters of our generation indeed, one of the best fighters and this super athlete that is commited to Christ to the degree that he’s willing to sacrifice money and influence and media support and affinity for the purpose of his Christian cause.”
“That man is an Elijah and an Elisha in the 21st century, and we need to keep him in our prayers,” Rodriguez continued.
Pacquiao was the subject of a profile by CBN News Asia Correspondent Lucille Talusan in 2012.
He currently is a congressman and may have the goal of one day running for president of the country.
The Christian lawmaker and elite athlete said he was perplexed by the president’s announcement, since he was not told about the alleged plan before Aquino made it public.
“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.
Presidential spokesman Herminio Coloma declined to comment directly on the complaints by Pacquiao against the president’s public statement.
“[The] government has taken, and continues to take, all necessary measures to ensure the safety of our citizens and thwart acts of terror, intimidation and destabilization against them,” Coloma told Agence France-Presse in a text message.
Three of the Abu Sayyaf units, along with the group’s leader Isnilon Hapilon, have pledged their loyalty to the Islamic State militant group (ISIS) since the group emerged and formed a caliphate in Iraq and Syria in June 2014.
The Filipino president said the plots had been exposed by authorities, who he said had been able to greatly reduce the group’s threat in the Philippines.
Abu Sayyaf is suspected of beheading Canadian national John Ridsdel Monday, after the deadline passed for an $8 million ransom. Abu Sayyaf threatened to behead one of four hostages, if it did not receive the money. Ridsdel’s head was discovered on a street in the town of Jolo.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said his country would now “pursue” the group that committed this “act of cold-blooded murder,” Newsweek reports.
The Abu Sayyaf is currently holding hostage another Canadian national, a Norwegian man and a Filipina woman. Channel NewsAsia reports that altogether, the Islamist militant group is believed to be holding hostage more than 20 foreigners.
Former members of the Philippine Muslim rebel group, the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF), founded the Abu Sayyaf in 1991. The Abu Sayyaf wants to form an Islamic state in the southern regions of the Philippines and has conducted several attacks against authorities, civilians and foreign nationals.
The group is responsible for the worst extremist attack in the history of the Philippines — the 2004 bombing of the Superferry 14. One hundred-sixteen people lost their lives in that attack.
Report via CBN News
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