Eight-time world boxing champion Manny Pacquiao has sparked a firestorm of criticism in the Philippines after describing gay couples as "worse than animals"
Manila: Eight-time world boxing champion Manny Pacquiao created quite a stir in his country after saying that people in same-sex relationships “are worse than animals”.
Nearing the end of a glorious decades-long boxing career, the 37-year-old is reinventing himself as a conservative Bible-bearing politician ahead of the country's May elections, when he is running for a senate seat.
Manny Pacquiao. Pic/AFP
"Do you see animals mating with the same sex? Animals are better because they can distinguish male from female. If men mate with men and women mate with women they are worse than animals," Pacquiao was quoted as saying by the Guardian on Tuesday.
Vice Ganda, Philippines most popular gay funnyman posted on Twitter hitting back at the boxer saying: "#PrayForMannyPacquiao . Some people think they can judge people like God just because they’ve attended a prayer meeting and read the bible. The senate needs experts on politics and law, not blind prophets."
There were comments made by other top celebrities too.
Responding to the controversy via social media platform Instagram, Pacquiao initially posted an image of himself with his wife, quoting the Bible and writing: "I rather obey the Lord's command than obeying the desire of the flesh. I'm not condemning anyone, but I'm just telling the truth of what the Bible says."
However, the boxer later apologised for his comments saying: "I'm sorry for hurting people by comparing homosexuals to animals. Please forgive me for those I've hurt. I still stand on my belief that I'm against same sex marriage because of what the Bible says, but I'm not condemning LGBT. I love you all with the love of the Lord. God Bless you all and I’m praying for you."
Gay marriage is outlawed in the Philippines due to strong opposition from the Catholic Church and 80 per cent of the country's 100 million people subscribe to the faith.
Gay marriages are officiated at small churches but these unions are not recognised by the church or the state.
Singer Aiza Seguerra, who recently married her actress-girlfriend, called on voters to boycott Pacquiao, who is also preparing for his last boxing fight in April, 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.
Pacquiao gave the television interview as part of his campaign for one of 12 seats in the nationally-elected senate. The most recent surveys suggest he would win.
He currently represents his wife's impoverished home province of Sarangani in the House of Representatives and is notorious for his chronic absences, favouring boxing training over legislation.