Manny Pacquiao is known across the globe as a monumentally popular boxer, but he’s also a politician who now serves as a senator in his native Philippines.
In that capacity, Pacquiao used his first speech in front of the Senate earlier this month to call for the reinstitution of the death penalty, but there’s a bit of a twist. Rather than restricting his call to murderers, Pacquiao also called on drug dealers to potentially be put to death, according to The Christian Post.
“(The) death penalty is lawful, moral and sanctioned governmental action. 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,” he said. “So, on the issue of the death penalty, I could not help but consult the Bible.”
To make his case, Pacquiao, a born-again Christian who is vocal about his faith, appealed to various verses in the Old and New Testaments, starting out with Genesis 9:6, which reads, “Whoever sheds human blood, by humans shall their blood be shed; for in the image of God has God made mankind.”
The famed boxer followed that up with Exodus 21:12, which calls for a person who strikes a fatal blow to a fellow human to be “put to death.”
As for the New Testament, he also cited Romans 13:4, which discusses “punishment on the wrongdoer,” as The Christian Post reported.
“When the government punishes, it’s not an individual act,” Pacquiao said. “That’s approved by God. That’s what the Bible says.”
While Pacquiao called for fair trials for the accused, he said the drug problem has become so out of control that it must be more properly contained.
“Drug addicts are addicted to drugs, while drug lords are addicted to money. We must speak to the criminal minds in the only language they understand,” the boxer said. “They must understand that our government will put a stop to impunity.”
He continued, “They have profited from the blood of thousands upon thousands of Filipino youths. It must stop now.”
Over the past few decades, the death penalty has had a complicated history in the Philippines. It was repealed in 2006 amid pressure from religious groups,Reuters reported.
But that 2006 repeal came after it was reinstituted 13 years earlier in 1993 — and the 1993 legalization came after it was before repealed in 1987. Now, proposals are already once again swirling in the nation’s Congress to bring it back.
Regardless of the history surrounding capital punishment, it’s hard to ignore that Pacquiao’s words paint a starkly different picture from what Philippines President Gloria Arroyo once said about the death penalty when she axed it back in 2006.
“We yield to the high moral imperative dictated by God to walk away from capital punishment,” she said.
Pacquiao is hardly alone, though, in his call for the death penalty to be back on the books in the Philippines, as President Rodrigo Duterte, who was recently elected, told reporters in May he planned to bring capital punishment back.
“What I will do is urge Congress to restore death penalty by hanging,” Duterte said at the time.
The call to reinstitute the death penalty comes as Pope Francis has imploredcountries around the world to rid themselves of capital punishment. It also comes as many prominent evangelical leaders in the U.S. are decrying the practice.
As Deseret National News recently reported, evangelicals are divided on the death penalty, but there has been a growing movement of opposition, with the Rev. Samuel Rodriguez, president of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference, among others, vocally speaking out against the practice.
“As a Christian committed to the sanctity of life, I am vehemently opposed to the death penalty,” he recently told Deseret News, showing a clear evolution on the issue and departing from past claims that he was unsure of where he stood.
The National Association of Evangelicals, a group that represents 45,000 churches across 40 denominations, also recently softened its stance on the death penalty, abandoning language that was staunchly in support of it for a more fair-minded statement that acknowledges both sides of the divide.
“Evangelical Christians differ in their beliefs about capital punishment, often citing strong biblical and theological reasons either for the just character of the death penalty in extreme cases or for the sacredness of all life, including the lives of those who perpetrate serious crimes and yet have the potential for repentance and reformation,” the new statement reads, in part. “We affirm the conscientious commitment of both streams of Christian ethical thought.”
Read more about the Christian death penalty debate here.