Updated: February 19, 2016 02:54 AM GMT
Filipino boxing champ Manny Pacquiao has come under fire for comparing gay people to animals. (Photo by Rob Reyes)
A priest in central Philippines took a jab at boxing champ Manny Pacquiao for calling people in gay relationships "worse than animals."
"I think we should maintain the use of politically correct language as a sign of respect," said Father Joseph Tan from Cebu Archdiocese.
The former world boxing champion, who is running for a seat in the Senate in the May national elections, said in a video interview that "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," Pacquaio said in the video that started circulating on social media on Feb. 15.
The boxing champ, a pastor of a born-again Christian group in the Philippines, posted an apology on his Instagram account on Feb. 16, but stood by his opposition to gay marriage.
"I'm sorry for hurting people by comparing homosexuals to animals," Pacquiao posted on Instagram.
"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," he added.
"I'm not condemning [lesbians, gays, bisexuals, transgenders]. I love you all with the love of the Lord. God Bless you all and I’m praying for you," he wrote.
Referring to Pacquiao, Father Tan said Christians should promote the protection of one’s dignity "even if we disagree with them in terms of opinion or lifestyle."
Pacquiao's statement drew flak from various groups, with some calling the boxer's comments "ignorant and bigoted."
"Even the beloved leader of the Catholic Church does not condemn gays," said gay comedian Vice Ganda.
Pacquiao, 37, a second-term congressman, was a champion in eight weight classes. He fought and lost to Floyd Mayweather Jr. last May. Boxing promoters announced that the Filipino champion will be fighting Timothy Bradley on April 9.