Pacquiao's comments anger gay community
Eight-time world boxing champion Manny Pacquiao, who sparked a storm of criticism in the Philippines after describing gay couples as "worse than animals", has apologised for his comments.
In an interview with local broadcaster TV5 aired earlier this week, Mr Pacquiao said: "It's common sense. 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."
In extending his apology in a video post on Instagram yesterday, he said: "I'm sorry for comparing homosexuals to animals. Please forgive me for those I've hurt."
He said he was not condemning homosexuals but was standing by his conservative Christian faith.
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, where he is running for a senate seat.
Gay marriage is outlawed in the Philippines due to strong opposition from the Catholic Church, to which 80 per cent of the country's 100 million people belong.
Gay marriages are officiated at small churches, but these unions are not recognised by the Catholic Church or the state.
The country's most popular gay comedian, Mr ice Ganda, posted #PrayForMannyPacquiao to his 6.7 million followers on Twitter as he tore into the boxer after the interview.
He said: "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."
Singer Aiza Seguerra, who recently married her actress-girlfriend, called on voters to boycott Mr Pacquiao, who is preparing for what is likely to be his final fight in April.
She called 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," Ms Seguerra said in a post on Instagram.
Mr Pacquiao 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.