By Bullit Marquez
SAN PABLO, Philippines (AP) — Boxing star Manny Pacquiao pressed on with his campaign for a seat in the Philippine Senate on April 28, barnstorming in a province south of Manila, despite a reported militant plot to kidnap him.
Pacquiao had few visible security escorts as he campaigned in Laguna province, shaking hands and allowing mobs of villagers to take selfies with him.
President Benigno Aquino III had revealed the day prior that Abu Sayyaf militants may have plotted against his life and considered kidnapping Pacquiao and the president’s sister, who is a popular actress.
The 37-year-old Pacquiao, currently a congressman and among the wealthiest sports celebrities in the world, said the intelligence report about the alleged kidnap plot should have been given to him confidentially instead of being announced publicly.
“I doubt [the threat], but I’m not ignoring it,” he told reporters.
Aquino, whose six-year term ends in June, vowed “to devote all my energies” to ensure that the extremists would be “at the very least … a very seriously degraded problem” for his successor.
The latest voter preference surveys ahead of May 9 elections show Pacquiao has a strong chance of landing a Senate seat, despite a considerable dip in his ratings weeks ago over a remark which gay and lesbian groups detested.
The Bible-quoting Pacquiao got embroiled in controversy in February for saying that people in same-sex relations are “worse than animals.” He apologized to people hurt by his comments, but made clear he opposed same-sex marriage.
The eight-division champion is the Philippines’ most famous athlete. He has represented southern Sarangani province in the Philippines’ House of Representatives since May 2010, though he has drawn criticism for seldom showing up for legislative duties.