Manny Pacquiao managed to avoid arrest after an ugly incident involving a rival politician in General Santos City in the Philippines on Saturday. And now he is denying any wrongdoing in connection with the incident. But a political enemy remains undeterred in his attempt to bring charges of corruption against the superstar boxer.
Photo: Chris Farina/Top Rank
Although there were people from among Pacquiao’s group of supporters who were jailed, his political chief of staff, Jeng Gacal, wanted to make it clear that the boxer-congressman himself, who just won election to office after running unopposed, was not one of them.
Gacal told PhilBoxing.com, “There is no truth to the allegation that Manny Pacquiao was detained. It was the barangay captain who was detained at the police precinct.”
The whole truth would still seem to be a little murky. According to the Manila Times, Pacquiao was indeed detained by authorities for questioning, in what was being referred to as a “mauling.”
The story that was posted on that publication’s website starts out by asking “Has the People’s Champ turned into a chump?” It makes mention of charges of “vote buying” and that a local “barangay” (or village) chief “was almost beaten to a pulp” by a group that included Pacquiao.
Barangay San Jose Captain Alfredo Belgica had made the accusation that Pacquiao, and people from his entourage, had physically harassed and assaulted him two days before the elections took place, while Pacquiao’s people hurled back an accusation that they were actually the victims of harassment on the part of Belgica; an attack that included damage to a vehicle they were driving. The implication was made that Belgica even fired gunshots. Tests for gunpowder are currently pending.
The origin of this confrontation, as had been reported in the Manila Times, is that Pacquiao’s group was attempting to distribute rice and money on a door-to-door basis to voters in Belgica’s village, in effect bribing them to go their way, and Belgica was making an attempt to stop them. When he threatened to file charges against Pacquiao for buying votes on behalf of General Santos City mayoral candidate Ronnel Rivera, the melee erupted.
The Times reported that “Belgica suffered from contusions and bruises in the face and various parts of the body. He could barely speak when interviewed at the police camp.”
It has been reported that members of Pacquiao’s political party, the People’s Champ Movement (PLM), were arrested for tearing up campaign posters for the opposition and had been bailed out.
Pacquiao and Belgica, you might imagine, are political adversaries. The former world champion supported Rivera, who wound up defeating Darlene Antonino-Custodio, the incumbent who was supported by Belgica, who belongs to something called the Achievement with Integrity Movement – Liberal Party (AIM-LP), which is in direct opposition to Pacquiao’s PLM.
Thus some of the bad blood.
At this point Belgica is still determined to file those charges of impropriety against Pacquiao, due to the fact that he was led out of the police command station by Gacal (who was also a candidate for councilor in General Santos City) without having been questioned. And this is not unfamiliar territory for Pacquiao, who faced an accusation of vote buying in his first campaign for congress.
Election-related violence is relatively common in the Philippines; in a particularly bloody 2009 incident, 58 people were massacred. There were over 60 people killed in events connected to electoral activities in this cycle alone (which involves 18,000 offices up for grabs), including an ambush in Manila where a presidential aide was fired upon as his convoy traveled in the southern town of Alcala. The sale and consumption of alcohol was forbidden until the day after the elections.
And extraordinary steps had been taken to curb vote-buying, including restrictions on bank withdrawals and the transportation of large amounts of money, something the Supreme Court overturned.