Life in the Philippines is dangerous these days, and headlines of militant group Abu Sayyaf beheading a Canadian tourist put a lot of people on alert. However, no one appears to have been on higher alert than the countries two biggest personalities — president Benigno Aquino III and star boxer Manny Pacquiao.
According to a TIME report, Aquino was a target for assassination by the Islamic extremist group and that Pacquiao, a devout Christian along with being a star boxer, was a target of a kidnapping plot by the same group.
“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,” he said, referring to his younger sister, who is a famous actress.
“Threats against my own life have been investigated,” he said, without elaborating.
These are the most high profile names, but Abu Sayyaf has become much bolder in its actions as of late. They are known to be holding at least 20 foreign nationals and associated Filipinos hostage in the attempts to bargain with governments for money and power back home.
Attempting to grab Pacquiao or any of his family certainly would garner attention, but it appears that the president of the country is resolute in his desire to weed out the extremist group by whatever means necessary.
A sizeable Abu Sayyaf force, led by militant commander Radulan Sahiron, is surrounding the remaining captives, Aquino said. While that is a delicate situation, “it is also an opportunity because smashing these forces is within our grasp,” he said.
“Casualties are to be expected,” he said, but he added that troops were adequately trained and well-armed.
While it is unclear how close the extremists got to executing said plan against Pacquiao and his family, it clearly was thwarted and that is good news in the fight to not have these groups gain any form of real respect or foothold in Filipino society-at-large.