[PHOTO AT LEFT - Philippine presidential candidate Manny Villar (L), Philippine boxing hero Manny Pacquiao (C) and vice-presidential candidate Loren Legarda (R) wave from a vehicle at the start of Pacquiao's campaign for a seat in congress in General Santos in the southern Philippine province of Sarangani on March 26, 2010. The Philippine election season kicked into top gear as thousands of candidates hit the campaign hustings amid assassination fears, coup rumours and other claims of political skullduggery.]

ALABEL, PHILIPPINES, APRIL 26, 2010 (BULLETIN) By BEN O. TESIORNA - The Philippine National Police (PNP) is set to look into the possible involvement of boxing champ Manny Pacquiao in the attempted ambush on the mayor of the Glan town Sunday evening.

This, after rumors surfaced that one of the two vehicles seized by the authorities from the five arrested suspects are registered under the name of Pacquiao's wife, Jinky. Several campaign stickers of Pacquiao were also recovered from the vans.

But Pacquiao, standard bearer of People’s Champ Movement, said the attempt to link him to the assassination try on Glan town mayor Enrique Yap Jr. was politically-motivated aimed at tainting his candidacy which has been gaining on his rival businessman Roy Chiongbian.

The two Toyota vans with plate numbers RBR 709 and MDM 577 were seized by the authorities from the suspects who allegedly attempted to ambush Yap.

Also taken from the suspects were an Armalite rifle and a .45 caliber pistol.

“These unfounded charges against me came out as a result of the recent survey which showed my candidacy was faring well against my opponent,” Pacquiao said.

Glan Mayor Yap’s vehicle was reportedly blocked by three vehicles in Barangay Pangyan around 10:58 p.m. of April 25. Yap, however, overtook the suspects’ vehicles and immediately called for police assistance.

The police rushed to the area and accosted the suspects who are now incarcerated at the Glan Police precinct. The suspects were identified as Freddie Mendez, Ronald Elorde, Alfredo Macabacyao, Jimmy Mier, and Renante Bangkas.

Mayor Yap’s wife is running for mayor under the Lakas-Kampi-CMD. His wife’s rival for the position is Sarangani board member Tata Yap who happens to be the brother of the mayor and is running under the People’s Champ Party of Pacquiao who is seeking the congressional seat of the province.

Senior Supt. Restito Gatera, provincial police director, said they will first check with the Land Transportation Office to determine who owns the two vans used by the suspects. He said that from there they will determine if there is enough evidence to invite Pacquiao for questioning.

Local television reports here showed Pacquiao denying involvement on the attempted ambush on Mayor Yap. Pacquiao did not discount the possibility though that they own the vans but explained that it could be one of their many vans in their transportation business which is being managed by Jinky.

The van bearing plate number MDM-577 was reportedly traced to Jinky Pacquiao. Pacquiao said he will investigate the presence of the van in the scene.

At the moment, Gatera said, they will be filing violation of the Omnibus Election Code for possession of illegal firearms during election period against the suspects. He did not discount the possibility of filing charges as well against the owners of the vans used by the suspects if they are found to have participation as well on the ambush plot against Mayor Yap.

Meanwhile, authorities are not discounting the possibility that the attempted ambush on Mayor Yap could also be related with the bomb explosion that narrowly hit the convoy of Sarangani Gov. Migs Dominguez Monday noon.

It was learned that Dominguez’s convoy came from Glan to check on his party mate Mayor Yap and was returning to General Santos City when the bomb placed inside a motorcycle exploded at the Lun Masla Bridge in Malapatan town just as the convoy was passing.

Governor Dominguez was said to have been shaken by the explosion but was unhurt.

The bomb was composed of a 105mm howitzer projectile with a blasting cap, an electronic box and a short-range handheld radio that served as the triggering device.

Based on the initial visual analysis by the explosive ordnance division team “there could have been a low order detonation that is why the projectile did not explode.”

Authorities said it was only the blasting cap that exploded and the 105mm projectile was simply ejected by the blast thus causing much less damage. Had the main projectile exploded, experts said, the vehicles of Dominguez’s convoy could have been severely damaged. (With a report from Joseph Jubelag)

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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