The Philippine Catholic Church and Vice President Jejomar Binay’s camp on Sunday defended boxing hero and Sarangani Rep. Emmanuel “Manny” Pacquiao for his opposition to gay marriage, saying he was only quoting the Bible.
But Fr. Jerome Secillano said over radio station dzMM that Pacquiao should respect homosexuals and not judge and condemn them after the eight-division world champion last week described them as worse than animals.
Binay’s camp also on Sunday said they will stand by the boxer-turned- lawmaker amid criticism he is facing after he compared members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community to beasts.
The boxing icon is running for a Senate seat in this year’s may elections under the Binay-led opposition United Nationalist Alliance (UNA).
Pacquiao, 37, who converted from Catholicism to an evangelical Protestant faith late in his boxing career, was pilloried by local gay rights groups and celebrities and has lost lucrative commercial endorsements as a result.
Secillano, executive secretary of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines’ Public Affairs Office, said: “This is really in the Bible. There is this quote he [Pacquiao] uses from the Bible and we cannot change that.”
He added that it was “unfair” to condemn Pacquiao for echoing what he reads in the Bible when he was asked about same-sex marriage.
But Secillano said the boxing hero should not have used such offensive language.
“The Church . . . says that if this is your lifestyle, if this is your orientation, then we respect that, we cannot condemn them,” the priest added.
He reiterated that the Catholic Church, which counts 80 percent of Filipinos as followers, still opposes legalization of same-sex marriage.
The Church’s influence has also kept divorce and abortion from being legalized in the Philippines.
Homosexuality, however, is not criminalized and several LGBT figures have become celebrities.
Pacquiao, who intends to retire after his April fight against American Timothy Bradley to pursue a career in politics, issued an apology on social media on Tuesday but later said his apology was qualified.
Nike, Pacquiao’s major global sponsor, canceled its endorsement deal with him in the past week, describing his comments as “abhorrent.”
Pacquiao, a former street kid with little education, has used his fame and fortune to launch a political career.
Already a two-term congressman, he is campaigning to win a Senate seat in the May 2016 elections.
Surveys published before the controversy had indicated he will win.
Pacquiao has said his ultimate ambition is to be President of the Philippines.
In siding with the boxer, the Binay camp said, “People belonging to one party should help each other, you carry each other.”
“For example, for some, what Manny said was wrong. But he believes in equal rights. UNA also believes in equal rights. I think what Manny needs more is help,” UNA spokesman Mon Ilagan said.
Ilagan added that other people’s views must be respected and urged that the issue be rested.