On the heels of his recent victory in the ring, professional boxer and politician Manny Pacquiao recently used the Bible to defend his pro-death penalty position in a senate hearing.
Pacquiao’s defeat over boxer Keith Thurman in July was followed by a different battle Wednesday as a member of the Philippines Senate. He used his first Senate speech to argue for capital punishment, proclaiming it lawful and moral “especially in the eyes of God.”
“When the government punishes, it’s not an individual act. That’s approved by God. That’s what the Bible says,” Pacquiao said, according to South China Morning Post. “Having read the Bible on a regular basis, I am convinced that God is not just a God of mercy but he is also a God of justice.”
“God allows the death penalty to discipline the people and to punish those wrongdoers,” he reportedly stated.
The Philippines ended the death penalty in 2006 after constant opposition from the Catholic Church, which represents the faith of 80 percent of Filipinos. However, the president of the country, Rodrigo Duterte, has declared he will introduce executions by hanging for “retribution.”
"The most important thing is we have to trust our authority, which is the government ... As a Christian, I subscribe to what the Bible says about submitting to governing authorities," Pacquiao said in his speech. "I can cite Bible verses to support my stance, but let me make this very clear, Mr. President, the focus of our debate on death penalty should be on the basis of its constitutionality."
The eight-division champion received opposition on his stance by Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon, who argued that Jesus' death on a cross is an example of capital punishment imposed by "fallible" judges. He maintained that leaving the fate of Filipino people’s lives on the shoulders of the justices of the Philippines court is similar.
"No one is perfect," Pacquiao said, adding that the "most important thing is we have to trust our authority ... the government."
Drilon quipped back, “In fact, in the history of man, only one can claim infallibility? Would the gentleman know that man?”
Pacquiao responded, “God, Mr. President.”
“Jesus Christ,” Drilon interjected. “And yet Jesus Christ was a victim of wrongful execution. Is that correct?”
Nevertheless, the outspoken Christain competitor disagreed, explaining that Jesus voluntarily laid down his life as a sacrifice to save the lives of people.
Pacquiao clarified his response for those in the Senate who implied that Jesus’ execution was at the hands of others.
"The Bible says, Mr. President, that Jesus said He can command His angels to protect Himself but He didn't do that because, purposely, He was going there to sacrifice Himself for us to be saved for eternal life," he contended.
Pacquiao is widely known in the public for his generosity and giving back to the poor. He grew up in severe poverty. Despite his fame and humanitarian efforts, Pacquiao’s stance on social issues, such as his thoughts on the LGBT community, the death penalty, and extra-judicial killings, has drawn opposition.
On his first day back to work, July 23, he said that he’s advocating the death penalty for drug dealers. He is one of the four senators who proposed the bill in the 18th Congress.
"If it's drugs, maybe [execution] by firing squad so it won't be done anymore," Pacquiao told reporters at the time.