Manny Pacquiao issues apology after calling homosexuals 'worse than animals'
Manny Pacquiao has apologised after he sparked controversy by calling homosexuals "worse than animals" in a television interview.
In a message posted on his Facebook page on Tuesday, the boxer asked for forgiveness and insisted he was "not condemning LGBT" - but also maintained he is "against same sex marriage".
The message said: "I'm sorry for hurting people by comparing homosexuals to animals. 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, the only eight-weight world champion in the history of boxing, has embarked on a political career in his native Philippines and is currently running for a senate seat in the country's May elections.
But the 37-year-old - who plans to fight for the final time in April when he challenges for Timothy Bradley's WBO welterweight title - provoked outrage in an interview with broadcaster TV5 aired earlier this week.
"It's common sense. Do you see animals mating with the same sex?" Pacquiao was quoted as saying when his comments were translated into English by TV5's Facebook page.
"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.''
Pacquiao currently represents his wife's home province of Sarangani in the House of Representatives, and positions himself as a conservative Christian politician.
But his remarks on homosexuality have prompted calls for voters to boycott him in the senate elections, with Filipino gay rights organisations and political group Ladlad condemning the boxer's comments.
Ladlad, the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender group, posted on its official Twitter account: "PLS DO NOT VOTE Manny Pacquiao for senator. His anti-LGBT statement betray a shallow understanding of the issues that are important to us."
Singer Aiza Seguerra, who recently married her actress-girlfriend, also called on voters to shun 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.
Gay marriage is outlawed in the Philippines due to strong opposition from the Catholic Church.
Eighty per cent of the country's 100 million people subscribe to the faith.
Gay marriages are officiated at small churches but these unions are not recognised by the church or the state.