Manny Pacquiao has apologised for claiming gay couples are worse than animals after his comparison sparked fierce condemnation.
The eight-time boxing world champion, who is campaigning for a seat in the Philippines senate, made the comments during a televised interview. Same-sex marriage is illegal in the Philippines, a majority Catholic country, and Pacquiao is presenting himself as an ultra-conservative candidate.
“It's common sense. Do you see animals mating with the same sex? Animals are better because they can distinguish male from female,” he was quoted as saying on TV5 by The Associated Press.
Vice Ganda, a popular comedian in the country, shared a #PrayForMannyPacquiao tweet on his account, while gay singer Aiza Seguerra urged her supporters to boycott the 37-year-old’s political campaign. “You might have done our country proud but with your statement, you just showed the whole country why we shouldn’t vote for you," she wrote on Instagram. "And yes, I think you are an ignorant, bigoted hypocrite. You made me lose all respect that I had for you, Mr Pacquiao."
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A video of Pacquiao’s remarks sparked criticism on Facebook, including from some commentators who described themselves as against same-sex marriage.
“If two people love each other and want to celebrate that love then who the hell are you to tell them to stop?” wrote one. “Close minded people don't deserve a seat on the senate or the presidency.”
Another added: “I am also against same-sex marriage, but the way Manny explained his opinion via this interview is very wrong. Haha. Don't compare humans to animals. And let them choose whatever they want. God made us to be free of choosing anything. But I choose God above everything. He loves every human being He created, that I'm sure of.”
As the backlash grew on Tuesday, Pacquiao shared an apology on Twitter and told his followers: “I’m humbling myself before you and before God for my mistake. Thank you, and God bless.”
I'm sorry for hurting people by comparing homosexuals to animals. Please forgive me for those I've hurt. God Bless! pic.twitter.com/bqjRcWqp8R— Manny Pacquiao (@mannypacquiao) February 16, 2016
Representatives for Pacquiao did not immediately return requests for comment from The Independent.
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