MANILA - Senator and presidential candidate Manny Pacquiao on Tuesday stood by his stand opposing same-sex marriage but said he loves the LGBTQIA+ community for being "smart, hardworking, and resourceful."
"Love ko po sila, hindi ko sila kinukundena, yung faith ko sa Panginoon ay nand'yan, kung ano man ang paniniwala ko, yun ang paniniwala ko, pero hindi ibig sabihin ayaw ko ng LGBT." Pacquiao said in an interview with One News PH.
("I love them. I take into account my faith and beliefs, but that doesn't mean I do not like them.)
In 2016, the boxing champ who was then running for senator was met with heavy criticism by the LGBTQIA+ community both locally and internationally, as well as advocate groups after he said that couples in same-sex relationships were worse than animals.
He later apologized for the remark, but did not change his stand that same-sex marriage should not be legalized in the country.
Sports equipment giant Nike later canceled its endorsement contract with Pacquiao.
While doing rounds for his campaign in Cebu last month, he was welcomed by some members of the local LGBTQIA+ community, who said they have already forgiven him.
If elected president, he said that he will help fight discrimination against the LGBTQIA+ community. "As human, siguro hindi tayo pwedeng mag-discriminate o mag-condemn, dahil who are we to condemn them? Ang mahalaga nagkakaisa tayo at nagmamahalan."
("We are all humans, who are we to discriminate and condemn? We should live in unity and love.")
Pacquiao also maintained that giving cash aid to his supporters and the public should not be considered vote buying.
"Hindi ito pamumulitika. Ginagawa ko na ito 2002 pa lang po. Namimigay na ako ng pera sa mga taong naghihirap at nangangailangan."
("I have been doing this since 2002, I help those who need it.")
He attributes the publicity to his campaign team, but said he preferred to keep it a private affair between himself and those he is helping.
"Pasensya na po sila, anong magagawa ko kung yan ang pagkatao ko na naaawa pag may nakikitang naghihirap o nagugutom?"
("I'm sorry, I cannot help it if I want to help those who are in need.")
Apart from in-kind donations of rice, chicken, and canned goods, Pacquiao also gives 1,000 pesos to the recipients, an amount he says, can be used to buy diapers, medicines, and vitamins.
The boxing world champion whose rags-to-riches success story has become world-famous recalled his impoverished beginnings.
He said he knew what it was like to live hand-to-mouth, and so rejected the "no-vaccination-no-aid" proposal for Pantawid ng Pamilyang Pilipino Program or 4Ps members.
Pacquiao said the government should respect the choices of its citizens and continue to give them the aid they need. "Yan ang pinakapabor na binigay sa atin ng Panginoon, ang will to choose. Wag natin alisin 'yon, ['yon] ang karapatan ng tao."
("That's the best thing that God gave us, the will to choose. Let's not forsake that, it is the people's right.")
Pacquiao also said his stand on the death penalty has wavered. He said that the country's judicial system should be improved before the death penalty is reinstituted.
"Ayusin muna natin ang gobyerno natin, baka maraming masintensyahan na walang kasalanan."
("Let's fix our government first, the death penalty might be given to those who are actually innocent.")
The senator previously said that the government was ‘biblically’ allowed to impose death penalty on heinous crimes.
Senator Manny Pacquiao is among 97 individuals who filed their candidacies for president next year.
The others include Vice President Leni Robredo, Mayor Isko Moreno Domagoso, Sen. Panfilo "Ping" Lacson, Sen. Ronald "Bato" Dela Rosa, former Sen. Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos, Jr., former Defense Sec. Norberto Gonzales, former presidential spokesman Ernesto Abella, and labor leader Leody de Guzman.