Filipino professional boxer-turned-politician, Manny Pacquiao has apologised for saying homosexuals are “worse than animals” in a television interview but has stood by his opposition to same-sex marriage.
The former world champion has embarked on a political career in his native Philippines and is currently running for a senate seat in the country’s May elections.
However, the 37-year-old, who was raised a Roman Catholic but is now a practicing Evangelical Protestant, provoked outrage in an interview with local broadcaster TV5.
“It’s common sense. Will you see any animals where male is to male and female is to female?” Pacquiao told TV5 during the interview for its election coverage.
“The animals are better. They know how to distinguish male from female. If we approve of male on male, female on female, then man is worse than animals.”
Ladlad, a local gay rights organisation and political group, condemned the boxer’s comments and urged voters to boycott him. The group released a statement, reported in local media, claiming that his statement ‘betrays a shallow understanding of sexual orientation and gender identity’.
Filipino singer Aiza Seguerra, who recently married her actress-girlfriend, also called on voters to shun the only eight-weight world champion in the history of boxing, calling him an ‘ignorant, bigoted hypocrite’.
‘You might have done our country proud but with your statement, you just showed the whole country why we shouldn’t vote for you,’ Seguerra said in a post on Instagram.
On Tuesday, Pacquiao posted a picture of himself with his wife on Instagram in an apparent response to the controversy.
‘I rather obey the Lord’s command than obeying the desires of the flesh,’ Pacquiao said. ‘I’m not condemning anyone, but I’m just telling the truth of what the Bible says.’
The boxer and Philippine Senate candidate posted an apology on social media later on Tuesday. “I’m sorry for hurting people by comparing homosexuals to animals,” he said in a Facebook video. “Please forgive me for those I’ve hurt.”
Pacquiao currently represents his wife’s home province of Sarangani in the House of Representatives, and positions himself as a conservative Christian politician. Eighty per cent of the Philippines’ 100 million people subscribe to the Catholic faith and same-sex marriage is outlawed in the country due to strong opposition from the Church. Same-sex marriages are officiated at small churches however these unions are not recognised by the Church or the state.