MANILA - Filipino boxing champion and United Nationalist Alliance (UNA) senatorial aspirant Manny Pacquiao has found an ally in Senate Minority Leader Juan Ponce Enrile.
Enrile said he sees nothing wrong with Pacquiao's position opposing same-sex marriage in the Philippines.
"Tama si Pacquiao. Kung ipipilit ng mga LGBT groups ang same-sex marriage, mainam pa na pumunta sila sa planetang Mars," he said in an interview.
He added that even the birds know the difference between males and females.
He also said Pacquiao should not be worried about the threat of LGBT [Lesbians, Gays, Bisexuals, Transgenders] groups that they will not vote for him in the May 2016 polls, saying the fighting congressman of Sarangani is a strong candidate.
Pacquiao, a senatorial bet of the United Nationalist Alliance (UNA), has come under fire for his controversial comments on same-sex relationships. He earlier told TV5 that those in same-sex relationships are "worse than animals."
"Mas mabuti pa yung hayop, marunong kumilala kung lalaki-lalaki o babae-babae. Kung lalaki sa lalaki o babae sa babae, e mas masahol pa sa hayop ang tao," Pacquiao said.
He later apologized for his comments but said he maintains his stand against same-sex marriage.
"Hindi po nagbabago ang aking desisyon na against po ako sa same-sex marriage at iyan po ang paniniwala ko," said Pacquiao. "Ang pagkakamali ko lang po ay ikinumpara ko ang tao sa hayop."
"I am humbling myself before you and before God."
READ: Pacquiao stands by remarks on same-sex marriage
The group Ang Ladlad has said it will not support Pacquiao's candidacy in the May 9 elections.
Re-electionist Senator Vicente "Tito" Sotto III said Pacquiao is "misguided," and senatorial aspirant Neri Colmenares said the boxer's statements were "below the belt."
READ: Pacquiao misguided on same-sex marriage, says Sotto
On the other hand, vice-presidential candidate Senator Bongbong Marcos said the public should respect Pacquiao's opinion.
"Everybody is entitled to their opinion, iyon ang kanyang paniniwala," Marcos said. "May karapatan ang bawa't isa na magdesisyon kung ano sa kanya ang tama. Respetuhin natin ang kanyang opinyon."
READ: Bongbong Marcos: Respect Pacquiao's opinion
For his part, UNA spokesman Mon Ilagan said Pacquiao is all for equality.
"Sa aking pagkakaalam, magkasama kami sa UNA pero yun ay personal na pananalita ni Congressman Manny Pacquiao at narinig ko rin na siya ay humingi ng paumanhin. Naging malinaw din ang stand niya dito na iginagalang niya ang karapatan. Yun nga lang, pagdating sa kung ano ang sinasabi ng simbahan, alam kong isa siyang born again. Isang charismatic leader. Hindi naman burden sa UNA slate. Nirerespeto niya rin ang pagkakapantay-pantay," he said. -- With reports from Junry Hidalgo, radio DZMM, and Aldrin Soriano, ABS-CBN News