Christian boxing star Manny Pacquiao believes the death penalty should be reinstated in the Philippines amid an ongoing anti-drugs campaign - a conclusion he came to after "consulting the Bible."
According to the Daily Mail, Pacquiao, who gave his first speech as a senator during a legislative session last week, called for the restoration of capital punishment, which was repealed in the Philippines in 2006.
"My first ever speech as a senator will focus on one of the biggest issues plaguing our country," Pacquiao said. "I speak before you because of the signs of urgency on the issue of drug problem which has become alarming as it gets worse each day."
The athlete, a Catholic who became a born-again Christian in 2012 and later a pastor, cited several Bible verses to make his case.
"[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," Pacquiao asserted. "So, on the issue of the death penalty, I could not help but consult the Bible."
"I found numerous verses and here are some," Pacquiao added before citing Genesis 9:6, which states: "Whoever sheds human blood, by human shall their blood be shed; for in the image of God has God made mankind."
Pacquiao then referenced Exodus 21:12, which reads: "Anyone who strikes a person with a fatal blow is to be put to death," and Romans 13:4 - "For the one in authority is God's servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for rulers do not bear the sword for no reason. They are God's servants, agents of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer."
The country's drug problem has escalated to the point where "even innocent citizens who renounce drugs can be a victim once an addict goes out to street and wreak havoc," Pacquiao warned.
"Drug addicts are addicted to drugs, while drug lords are addicted to money," he added. "We must speak to the criminal minds in the only language they understand. They must understand that our government will put a stop to impunity. They have profited from the blood of thousands upon thousands of Filipino youths. It must stop now."
According to Reuters, the country's anti-drug campaign, launched when President Rodrigo Duterte took office, has killed 1,900 people in seven weeks. The outlet notes that Duterte, nicknamed "the Punisher," won the presidency on a platform of wiping out drugs, and had warned traffickers before he took office to reform or risk death.
On Wednesday, national police chief Ronald dela Rosa revealed that a total of 756 people were killed by police during the operation beginning July 1 that has been dubbed "Double Barrel". An additional 1,160 people were killed by what police have suggested are vigilantes. Most victims were shot.
"The government's war on drugs is highly appreciated and supported by the public," he said.
However, the campaign has been condemned by U.S. officials, who argue police should only use deadly force as a last resort to defend themselves or others and "never as a punishment".
New York-based Human Rights Watch condemned the "shocking human toll" and accused Duterte of inciting violence and "steamrolling the rule of law."
The Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines also condemned the killing spree on Sunday, warning that the country was turning into a nation filled with street murderers and questioning the effectiveness of the "war on drugs."