Christian boxing star Manny Pacquiao has expressed confusion over why he was the alleged kidnapping target of a terrorist organization, as he views his fellow Filipinos - especially Muslims - as close friends.
According to The Guardian, Philippines president Benigno Aquino III said Wednesday that the Abu Sayyaf terrorist group had plans to kidnap and kill Pacquiao or one of his children.
"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, referring to his younger sister, who is a famous actress.
"Threats against my own life have been investigated," he said, without elaborating.
Bleacher Report notes that when asked to comment on the situation, Pacquiao said he was stunned by alleged plot: "I was alarmed when he announced...the Abu Sayyaf wanted to kidnap me. I'm surprised because all Filipinos are my friends. I love them, especially the Muslims."
The 37-year-old future Hall of Famer said he is working to ensure his family is safe amid such threats: "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 also voiced concern that Aquino 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."
Abu Sayyaf began a series of large-scale abductions after it emerged in the early 1990s as an offshoot of a separatist rebellion by minority Muslims in the southern Philippines.
NBC reveals that the group, believed to be responsible for the beheading of a Canadian hostage in the Philippines, had also wanted to explode bombs in Manila to try to get funding from ISIS. However, Aquino said the plans were uncovered and the country's troops had reduced the militants' ability to inflict harm.
Meanwhile, Pacquiao is currently a member of the Philippine House of Representatives, and he is running for a senate seat, which will be determined May 9. He announced his retirement from boxing earlier this year after defeating rival boxer Timothy Bradley Jr. in Las Vegas.
When asked about his future plans, Pacquiao, who is a former eight-division world champion with 58 wins in his career, told ESPN: "As of now I am retired. I am going to go home and think about it, but I want to be with my family. I want to serve the people [of the Philippines]."