Philippine boxer and politician Manny Pacquiao has apologised in the face of severe criticism for saying homosexuals were “worse than animals”.
Writing on his Facebook page, Mr Pacquiao said he remained against gay marriage but was “not condemning LGBT”. “God Bless you all and I’m praying for you,” he added. Mr Pacquiao’s original remark, made during a TV interview, drew ire from gay Filipino celebrities and a rights group and sparked heated discussion. Initially he appeared unrepentant, writing in a post in Instagram that he was “just telling the truth of what the Bible says”.
The former world champion, who positions himself as a conservative Christian politician, is running for a senate seat in May elections. Mr Pacquiao, who is a member of the Philippines house of representatives, was speaking to local station TV5 earlier this week for its election coverage. In a clip posted online (in Tagalog), he tells the interviewer: “It’s common sense. Will you see any animals where male is to male and female is to female?
“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.”
Filipino comedian Vice Ganda and singer Aiza Seguerra, who are openly gay, have criticised Mr Pacquiao for his comments, calling him a “hypocrite” and a “false prophet”. Local gay rights organisation and political group Ladlad condemned his remarks and issued a call to voters to boycott Mr Pacquiao. It said in a statement, reported in local media, that his view “betrays a shallow understanding of sexual orientation and gender identity” and that failure to understand gay rights issues would leave him in the dark ages “when the cavemen ruled and the numbskulls roamed the Earth”.
On Tuesday, Mr Pacquiao, who has won world titles in eight different weight divisions, had posted a picture of himself with his wife on Instagram in an apparent response to the controversy.
He said: “I rather obey the Lord’s command than obeying the desires of the flesh. I’m not condemning anyone, but I’m just telling the truth of what the Bible says.”
The furore has split the online world, where many Christian followers have shown support for Mr Pacquiao, while others have condemned him for his views.
Manny Pacquiao remains hugely popular in the Philippines, and has spoken frequently about his renewed Christian faith. He represents his wife’s home province of Sarangani in the lower house.
Many Filipinos hold conservative views on gay rights because much of the population is Catholic, but the country has several prominent gay personalities and the capital, Manila, also has a vibrant gay scene.