MANILA (Christian Examiner) – Championship boxer and Filipino Rep. Manny Pacquiao, an outspoken Christian who recently ruffled feathers worldwide by comparing homosexuality to animal-like behavior, may have been the target of a kidnapping plot by Islamic terrorists.
According to Philippines President Benigno Aquino III, the plot by Abu Sayyaf terrorists – the same terrorists who kidnapped missionaries Martin and Gracia Burnham in 2001 – was in its final stages, along with other terror plots.
Aquino said the militants, who want to establish an Islamic state in the southern Philippines, planned to assassinate him and explode bombs in Manila in an attempt to extort money from the government. They wanted to make a statement by taking the boxer as leverage in a prisoner exchange, the president said.
"They allegedly even hatched plots to kidnap Manny Pacquiao or one of his children, as well as my sister Kris or one of her children, with the plan to use them in bargaining for the release of their cohorts," Aquino said.
If kidnapped, Pacquiao – whose eight world titles have made him a national hero – would certainly be in danger and command a large ransom. He is also a political figure. A two-term congressman, he is competing for one of the Philippines open senate seats in the country's national elections May 9.
Abu Sayyaf reportedly beheaded a Canadian hostage on April 25 after the ransom the group demanded was not paid. That event only creates a greater sense of concern for Pacquiao.
He told The Star, a widely circulated English-language paper in the country, that he was "alarmed" when the president first mentioned the plot.
"I'm surprised because all Filipinos are my friends. I love them, especially the Muslims," he told the paper from his residence in Manila.
He also told the Filipino news channel ABS-CBN that he doubted the threat but would not ignore it. The boxer said he had set additional security measures in place for him, his wife and five children.
"I live like every day is the last so I have no fear. God is with me," he said.
Abu Sayyaf, which has become proficient in kidnapping, has a reputation for brutality. Since the 1970s, the group has waged a ruthless insurgency in Mindanao, the southernmost island in the Philippines. Manila, however, is on Luzon, the northernmost island in the country.
On April 9, 18 Filipino soldiers and two dozen militants were killed in clashes in Basilan in the south.