MANILA (Christian Examiner) – Manny "Pacman" Pacquiao is used to getting hit and hit hard, but punches of a different kind are being thrown now – social media is alight with criticism after the boxing champ and Filipino politician said in a television interview that homosexuals behaved "worse than animals."
Pacquiao has served in the Philippines House of Representatives since 2010 and is now running for the Senate. During a wide-ranging television interview about his political and religious beliefs, he was asked by a reporter about his faith and homosexuality.
"For me it's just common sense. Have you seen any animal having male-on-male or female-on-female relations? Animals are better because they recognize gender differences. And if you have male-on-male and female-on-female, then people are worse than animals," Pacquiao said.
Most pro-gay news outlets pounced on the comment, but did not disclose Pacquiao's subsequent comment that he was "not condemning" homosexuals.
"I am not condemning them, just the marriage, committing sin against God," the boxing champ said in broken English and his native Tagalog (Filipino).
For me it's just common sense. Have you seen any animal having male-on-male or female-on-female relations? Animals are better because they recognize gender differences. And if you have male-on-male and female-on-female, then people are worse than animals. I am not condemning them, just the marriage, committing sin against God.
Within a few hours, more than 25,000 people had commented on Pacquiao's Facebook page. Many of the comments were positive, praising the athlete for his strong stance on homosexuality. Others expressed a mixture of shock, hurt and rage.
Pacquiao rose to prominence in the boxing world at the turn of the century and has since win 10 world titles. He is the only boxer ever to have done so. He is also the only boxer to win four titles in successive weight divisions. He tried to enter politics in 2007, but lost his first election.
This is also not the first time Pacquiao has spoken of his Christian faith. In 2014, he told a British newspaper of his past womanizing ways and all-night partying, as well as the change God brought in his life through the gospel.
"I have a lot of dreams and visions," Pacquiao told the Guardian, "I even heard the voice of God. When I heard the voice of God, I am trembling and melting. I feel I have died. It was an amazing, amazing experience."
"I'm happy because I found the right way, salvation, born again. We are required to be born again, all of us," he said.
"Christ said unless we are born again we cannot enter the kingdom of God. So it's very important to me. ... Jesus Christ said: 'I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.' There is no other way. The only way is through Jesus."
Shortly after he made the comments on homosexual practices, Pacquiao apologized.
"I'm sorry for hurting people by comparing homosexuals to animals," the boxer said. "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."
Pacquiao's comments were criticized by gay comedian Jose Marie Viceral, also known as Vice Ganda, a popular television host in the Philippines. He also said the gay community would pray for the boxer to be enlightened about LGBT issues.
"Some people think they can judge people like God just because they've attended a prayer meeting and read the Bible, Vice Ganda said via Twitter. "What we need in the Senate are those who are experienced in politics, law, and economics – not false prophets."
After Pacquiao's apology, Vice Ganda said the apology was accepted, but he still would never vote for the boxer in an election.
The pastor of a gay "church" in Manila also criticized Pacquiao. Kakay Pamaran told AFP Pacquiao should not be taken seriously as a politician or Christian.
"It struck me first as funny. I pity him," Pamaran said. "I would advise him to talk to more LGBT (lesbian gay bisexual and transgender) persons, meet them and not just reduce his concept of LGBT to the sexual act."
Boxer Floyd Mayweather, who has openly criticized Pacquiao for years and who defeated Pacquiao in a title fight last year, was asked about his rival's comments. Mayweather, however, refused to condemn Pacquiao for this religious opinions.
"I think we should just stay positive. We should let people live their lives the way they want to live their lives. I don't have nothing against anyone," Mayweather said.