Boxer Manny Pacquiao labels gay couples 'worse than animals' in vitriolic slur
Manny Pacquiao has sparked a firestorm of criticism in the Philippines after describing gay couples as "worse than animals".
Pacquiao, 37, and a current member of the House of Representatives, has now apologised via social media.
"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."
In an Instagram post, he said he was not condemning anyone but was just expounding on a biblical truth and would rather obey God than obey "the desires of the flesh".
Although he has come under fire for his chronic absences in Congress, Pacquiao is campaigning for a Senate seat and voter-preference surveys show him among the strong contenders. Many believe he will eventually take a crack at the presidency.
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.
"It's common sense. Do you see animals mating with the same sex? Animals are better because they can distinguish male from female," Pacquiao, who fights professionally for the final time in April, told local broadcaster TV5 in an interview aired earlier this week.
"If men mate with men and women mate with women they are worse than animals."
Gay marriage is outlawed in the Philippines due to strong opposition from the Catholic Church and 80 per cent of the country's 100million people subscribe to the faith.
Gay marriages are officiated at small churches but these unions are not recognised by the church or the state.
The eight-weight world champion also posted a picture with his wife on Instagram, along with this message:
I rather obey the Lord's command than obeying the desires of the flesh. Im not condemning anyone, but I'm just telling the truth of what the Bible says. The truth from the Bible is what changed me from my old ways. 1 Corinthians 6:9 " Or do you not know that wrongdoers will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor men who have sex with men." God Bless everyone i love you all. @johnnybantilan @david.sisson @jinkeepacquiao
The country's most popular gay comedian, Vice Ganda, posted #PrayForMannyPacquiao to his 6.7million followers on Twitter as he tore at the boxer.
"Some people think they can judge people like God just because they've attended a prayer meeting and read the bible," he said.
"The Senate needs experts on politics and law, not blind prophets," Vice Ganda added.
Singer Aiza Seguerra, who recently married her actress-girlfriend, called on voters to boycott Pacquiao, 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 will 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.
In one of the rare times he spoke at the legislature, Pacquiao quoted heavily from the Bible as he vigorously sought to stop a proposed law, since passed, granting free condoms to the poor.
He credits his renewed Christian faith for transforming him from a free-spending womaniser and gambler into a devoted family man who can recite Bible verses.
He fights for the last time against American Timothy Bradley in April.
"Outside the boxing ring, I don't think Manny Pacquiao should be taken seriously. It struck me first as funny. I pity him," Kakay Pamaran, a pastor at one of Manila's gay churches, told AFP.
"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."