Anti-Gay Boxer Manny Pacquiao Announces Bid for Philippines Presidency

by Kilian Melloy

EDGE Staff Reporter

Tuesday September 21, 2021
Originally published on September 21, 2021

Manny Pacquiao
Manny Pacquiao  (Source:John Locher/AP)

Champion boxer Manny Pacquiao — who once condemned gay people in committed relationships as being "worse than animals" — has announced he will run for president in the Philippines, Forbes reported.

Pacquiao had been a supporter of the current strongman president of the Philippines, Rodrigo Duterte, but he recently "rail[ed] against corruption in government and what he calls President Rodrigo Duterte's cozy relationship with China," Reuters noted.

Pacquiao had been the head of the PDP-Laban Party, but was forced out of that position after his criticisms of Duterte and of government corruption, Forbes said.

Media sources called Pacquiao's campaign a de facto run against President Duterte, despite Duterte being constitutionally limited to a single six-year term. However, Duterte has been nominated as a candidate for vice president — "a move that critics called a cynical ploy by Duterte to retain power," Reuters said. It is unclear whose presidential ticket Duterte would join; Sen. Christopher Go had been nominated, but declined. Duterte's daughter, Sara Duterte-Carpio, remains a potential candidate.

Pacquiao, Reuters noted, is "the only man to hold world titles in eight different divisions." He is also a longtime office holder, having served in the Philippines House of Representatives from 2010 to 2016, before winning a seat in the Senate in 2016. It was during his 2016 campaign that Pacquiao sparked outrage with his anti-gay comment. Though Pacquiao subsequently offered an apology, he remains opposed to marriage equality, saying family equality for sexual minorities runs counter to his Christian beliefs.

"I'm sorry for hurting people by comparing homosexuals to animals," his apology, which took the form of a Facebook post, read, the New York Post recalled. "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," he added.

But his language against LGBTQ+ people continued in 2017. As Yahoo! News reported at the time, Pacquiao condemned the trans community, calling it a "fraud" during a Senate session in the Philippines when discussing an antidiscrimination bill.

"Pacquiao brought up the controversial murder of transgender Jennifer Laude by U.S. Marine member James Scott Pemberton during a debate over passage of Senate Bill 1271, which aims to fight discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity," Yahoo! News writes, later adding, "While commenting on the incident, Pacquiao alleged that transgender individuals could 'deceive' others by dressing as the opposite sex, and may be used to commit fraud."

"Even in the Bible, we read that the woman should wear women's clothing; and the man, for men's wear. That's what I believe," the athlete said.

Now 42 years old, Pacquiao is rumored to be about to retire from the sport, the Post reported.

But he clung to pugilistic rhetoric when accepting the nomination, saying in a Sept. 19 speech, "I am a fighter, and I will always be a fighter inside and outside the ring," the Post recalled.

"I am accepting your nomination as candidate for president of the Republic of the Philippines," the athlete and politician added.

Though he remains popular as an athlete, current polling shows Pacquiao would lose an election held now if he were pitted against Duterte-Carpio.

Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Associate Arts Editor and Staff Contributor. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, The Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association's Elliot Norton Awards Committee.