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Pacquiao denies assaulting rival

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Welterweight star and Filipino politician Manny Pacquiao has denied reports that he mauled a barangay chief on Monday, according to the fighter’s lawyer.

The Manila Times reported that Pacquiao was facing charges of “vote buying and serious physical injuries” for allegedly attacking Alfredo Belgica, the barangay chairman of San Jose, in General Santos City on Saturday night after Belgica had attempted to stop ‘Pac Man’ from distributing rice and money to voters.

Pacquiao is currently facing re-election as representative of the lone district of Sarangani province, but was in General Santos City to help friend Ronnel Rivera, who is running for mayor in the area.

Belgica is an ally of the Achievement with Integrity Movement - Liberal Party (AIM-LP), the rival coalition to Pacquiao’s People’s Champ Movement-United Nationalist Alliance (PCM-UNA).

Jeng Gacal, Pacquiao’s chief-in-staff and lawyer, strenuously denied the claims in a separate phone interview with the paper.

“That is not true. In fact, they [Belgica's camp] were the ones who mauled our supporters, fired shots at them, destroyed the vehicles,” Gacal told The Manila Times. “Pacquiao learned about what happened over the radio, and he went to the scene to pacify the people.”

Following the incident both Belgica and Pacquiao were taken to the General Santos City Police command based in Camp Fermin Lira Jr for investigation but the paper reported that Gacal, who is also running for councillor in General Santos City, accompanied the fighter out of the command before any statement was given.

However, Gacal also denied Pacquiao had been arrested, stating it was only Belgica who was taken in by the authorities.

“They are just making this up out of desperation,” Gacal said. “It’s election season, and the candidates supported by Pacquiao are leading in pre-election surveys.”

Belgica is considering legal action against the former pound-for-pound king, stating that authorities should not have released Pacquiao without questioning him.

Pacquiao returns to the ring on November 23, where he will fight Brandon Rios in Macau.

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