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Manny Pacquiao accused of vote buying and assault in campaign scuffle

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COMMENTARY | This is an article told in two parts. First, there's the part about an alleged assault involving Manny Pacquiao. Second, there's the part about how the boxing media has chosen to cover it.

Eight-division world champ and Filipino pop-culture icon Manny Pacquiao was accused of vote buying and assault in a campaign scuffle late Saturday night in General Santos City, The Philippines.

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Manny Pacquiao attends a post-fight news conference. (Reuters)

According to Alfredo Belgica, the district chairman of San Jose, Pacquiao and a group of campaign workers assaulted him when he confronted them over possible vote fraud. According to Belgica, Pacquiao and a convoy of five vehicles showed up in his district to distribute rice, cash, and assorted other goods in exchange for votes. General Santos City is outside the boundaries of Pacquiao's own province, but he was there to support mayoral candidate and friend, Ronnel Rivera. When Belgica voiced his opposition to what was happening, the district chairman alleges that Pacquiao and his bodyguards beat him mercilessly.

Per the Manila Times, "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."

Pacquiao, who has since won in his unopposed bid for re-election as congressman of the Sarangani province, was reportedly taken into custody by the police, along with the entire group of people involved in the melee. According to reports, Pacquiao's personal attorney, Jeng Gacal, was able to free his client without having to undergo questioning from authorities.

However, a much, much different story is coming from Pacquiao's side of the incident.

"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 said. "Pacquiao learned about what happened over the radio, and he went to the scene to pacify the people."

Gacal even denies that Pacquiao was ever arrested or taken into custody.

"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 will reportedly file charges against the fighter and perhaps pursue other legal action.

Now, in terms of putting all of this into perspective, one has to stick with the "innocent until proven guilty" concept. Both sides are telling very contradictory stories and this has become very much a "he said, he said" situation. Without having firsthand knowledge of the situation or, at the very least, solid info as to the character of Belgica, there's no choice but to step back and suspend judgment until more facts are available.

A related issue, though, would have to do with how the boxing media has chosen to deal with this story.

Actually, as of this writing, they have chosen NOT to deal with it.

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Juan Manuel Marquez lands a punch against Manny Pacquiao during their fourth fight. (Yahoo)

Of all the major boxing news sites, only ESPN UK chose to post anything about this incident -- and they merely posted a blurb issued from Pacquiao's side of the story, denying all wrongdoing.

It's understandable that some editors would prefer not to post a story with such strong accusations and so little actual proof, but this is Manny Pacquiao.

Websites fall all over themselves to find something -- anything -- to post about Manny so they can enjoy the sizable traffic boost from his massive group of hardcore fans. There are some sites that even make his airport arrivals front page news. Yet, not a peep about this. Not a peep, despite this story going viral throughout social media Monday.

It's odd that some sites, which routinely post rumors and unsubstantiated gossip, drew the line with this one. Floyd Mayweather's alleged poking of a security guard garnered a couple of days of coverage. But this alleged incident with Pacquiao got no coverage.

The allegations of assault against Pacquiao may be completely bogus. At this point, it's wiser to assume that Manny is innocent in all of this, but does that mean that the story is not worth reporting? Does it, perhaps, give us a glimpse into a certain amount of bias in the way boxing's biggest stars are covered? And for those conspiracy theorists out there, is there an effort, either conscious or unconscious, to protect Manny's image as "the good guy?"

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Paul Magno was a licensed official in the state of Michoacan, Mexico and a close follower of the sport for more than thirty years. His work can also be found on Fox Sports and as Editor-in-Chief of The Boxing Tribune. In the past, Paul has done work for Inside Fights, The Queensberry Rules and Eastside Boxing. For breaking news, additional analysis, and assorted crazy commentary, follow him on Facebook, @TheBoxingTribune or on Twitter, @BoxingBTBC.

Sources: Manilla Times, ESPN UK

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