Alma Moreno to Pacquiao: Religious beliefs not basis to insult others

PANGASINAN, Philippines – Parañaque Councilor Alma Moreno on Wednesday, February 17, chided fellow United Nationalist Alliance (UNA) senatorial candidate Manny Pacquiao for citing his religious beliefs as "basis to insult others."

While Moreno is against same-sex unions and said she respects the opinion of Pacquiao, who came under fire for saying that couples of same-sex unions are "worse than animals," she disapproved of his comparison between gay couples and animals.

"Nirerespeto ko si Cong Manny Pacquiao, lalo na sa karangalan na dala niya sa ating bayan, at alam kong mabuti siyang tao at Kristiyano pero, paumanhin sa kanya, I will have to disagree doon sa sinabi niya na mas masahol pa sa hayop ang same-sex relationships," said Moreno.

(I respect congressman Manny Pacquiao especially because of all the honor he has brought for our country. I know he is a good person and a Christian but, pardon me, I will have to disagree to what he said that those in same-sex relationships are worse than animals.)

She said in Filipino that a person's beliefs "should not be a basis to insult others," especially those who are productive, law-abiding members of society.

"We are accountable only for our own actions. Ang dami kong kilala na mga gay na napaka-disente, na nagbabayad ng tamang buwis, na maraming naiambag sa industriya at sa iba't ibang larangan tulad ng business, akademya, at pati na sa politika. Kaya I think, at the very least, they deserve our respect," said the former actress.

(We are accountable only for our own actions. I know a lot of gay people who are very decent, who pay the right taxes, and have made huge contributions to different sectors like business, the academe, and even in politics. So I think, at the very least, they deserve our respect.)

'Our faith says no'

Aside from Pacquiao and Moreno, UNA exclusive candidates against same-sex marriage are Sulu Princess Jacel Kiram, broadcaster Rey Langit, and labor lawyer Allan Montaño.

Langit, Moreno, Montaño, and Kiram said in separate statements that they follow the stand of their faith on same-sex marriage. The first 3 are Catholics, while Kiram is a Muslim.

Pacquiao drew strong criticism from the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) community for his offensive remark. The Christian pastor quoted the Bible to defend his stand, but later apologized "for those I've hurt" even as he reiterated his position.

Like Pacquiao, Montaño quoted 1 Corinthians 6:9-10 to explain why he is against same-sex marriage.

"[I] am not in favor of same-sex marriage. As a practical Catholic, the Bible says: No man is to have sexual relations with another man. Leviticus 18: 22; Surely you know that the wicked will not possess God's kingdom...homosexuality...pervert. 1 Corinthians 6:9-10," read his exact text message.

Langit said he is open "to some kind of rights and responsibilities that are being extended to the gay community" but "marriage is a sacred bond between a man and woman."

According to Moreno, the issue of same-sex marriage is "complicated" because sometimes, what an individual wants is contrary to the teachings of his or her religion.

"Ang pagiging Katoliko ay isang decision, continuing decision, kaya paninindigan ko ang turo ng aking simbahan (Being Catholic is a continuing decision, so I will stand by what my church is teaching)," she said in a text message.

Moreno added, however, that what her faith tells her is only applicable to her. 

"Ang pananampalataya ay isang napaka-personal na bagay, di ako pwede manghimasok diyan. Hindi ko ito i-impose sa ibang tao, kasi 'di naman ako Santo Papa o pari, at di naman lahat ng Pilipino ay Katoliko o Kristiyano," she said.

(Faith is very personal and I cannot interfere with that. I don't impose my faith on others, because I am not the Pope or a priest and not every Filipino is a Christian or Catholic.)

Kiram shared the sentiment. "As a Muslim Filipina, it (same-sex marriage) is non-acceptable in our belief. But it is our belief, so we just have to respect the belief of others," she said.

"Para magkaroon talaga ng pagkakaisa. Di naman tayo magkakapareho ng paniniwala (So there will be unity. Not everyone share the same beliefs), but we'll be one if we learn to respect each other's belief," Kiram added.

Freedom of choice

Of the 6 "original" or exclusive UNA candidates in the Senate race, only one favors same-sex marriage – former Special Action Force chief Getulio Napeñas Jr.

According to Napeñas, the issue of same-sex marriage concerns the "civil rights" and "freedom of choice" of the people.

"Kung gusto niya, he can do it. Ngayon pa lang, naniniwala ako na ang tao ay may karapatan gawin kung saan sila masaya (If he wants it, he can do it. Even now, I believe that a person has the right to do what makes him happy)," said Napeñas, the former SAF commander who faces criminal charges over his involvement in the Mamasapano encounter.

He added that when a person is happy, he tends to be more productive.

"Kaya nga sabi ko nga diyan, it's the people's choice. Kung 'yun ang magbibigay ng kaligayahan sa kanya, e 'di pabayaan natin ang taong-bayan kung anong gusto nilang gawin," he said.

(What I'm saying is that it's the people's choice. If that will give the people happiness, then let them do what they want to do.)

'Everyone makes mistakes'

On the criticism against Pacquiao, Kiram, Langit, and Montaño defended the boxing champ.

"Congressman Pacquiao is entitled to his own opinion and he may have other way of expressing his views," Montaño said.

For her part, Kiram said: "I think his (Pacquiao) stand is clear. Siguro nagkamali lang siya ng paggamit ng wordings but I think he said sorry about it already. Tao lang, nagkakamali ang lahat."

(I think his stand is clear. Perhaps he used the wrong words, but I think he said sorry about it already. He's human; everyone makes mistakes.)

UNA standard-bearer Vice President Jejomar Binay, who is also against same-sex marriage, had also defended Pacquiao, saying the boxing icon is "very God-fearing."

UNA candidates are in Pangasinan on Wednesday to campaign in Lingayen and Binmaley towns. 

Binay will also attend the 60th Annual Council Meeting of the Boy Scouts of the Philippines in the province. The Vice President was elected BSP national president in June 2015, in the middle of a controversial issue involving an alleged P200-million deal between Alphaland and BSP, the subject of a Senate probe. (READ: Boy Scouts 'so shortchanged' in Alphaland deal – senators) – Rappler.com

Mara Cepeda

Mara Cepeda writes about politics and women’s rights for Rappler. She covers the House of Representatives and the Office of the Vice President. Got tips? Send her an email at mara.cepeda@rappler.com or shoot her a tweet @maracepeda.

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