The criticisms against the Catholic Church, including President Rodrigo Duterte’s allegation that most priests and prelates are homosexuals, were mere expressions of his sentiments on “hypocrites” in the society, presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo said yesterday.
Panelo added despite the verbal assaults, the Chief Executive maintains a high level of respect to the faith.
“Listening to his speech with an open mind and watching his body language, one can easily discern that PRRD (President Rodrigo Roa Duterte) was only airing his sentiments against some Church leaders who are living in luxury contrary to their teachings,” the Palace official said.
Mr. Duterte, addressing Bulacan local officials, said street idlers should “rob and kill” bishops because they have a lot of money.
“His use of figures of speech, as we have repeatedly emphasized, is his style in articulating and dramatizing a point. As expected, the detractors of the President are once again condemning him for his latest remarks on the bishops,” he added.
Proof of pudding
Panelo reiterated while Mr. Duterte has repeatedly attacked the Catholic Church and disputed some of its teachings, recent policies and orders issued by the President are proof of his respect for the faithful and how he “recognizes the fundamental role of religion in the lives of the Filipino people.”
“PRRD’s signing of Republic Act 11163, otherwise known as the National Bible Day Act, which recognizes the value of the Holy Bible, as the core of Christian faith and of its reading, as a communion between Christians and their Creator,” Panelo said of the new law declaring every last Monday of January as a special working holiday.
Mr. Duterte’s message to devotees of the Black Nazarene during the annual staging of the traslacion, the spokesman said, was an acknowledgment of “the people’s devotion to the sacred image” and their “strong faith and reliance” in God.
“The President’s actions show that he respects beliefs and traditions with its rich cultural, social and ethnic diversity. It is therefore his fervent hope that the free exercise of all religions pursuant to the Constitution shall aid and encourage the development of the moral character and spiritual foundation of our citizens,” Panelo said.
With this, the official calls on the President’s detractors to “not turn a blind eye” every time he speaks and “momentarily suspend their incorrigible biases” to fully comprehended the message he is trying to convey to all Filipinos.
Panelo likewise urged the prelates to be more accepting of Mr. Duterte’s criticisms as they, too, have hurled their condemnations at him and his style of governance.
“If the men of the cloth can unleash tirades against the President then they should be able to receive some lashes from him to return the favor,” he expressed.
Mr. Duterte also dared gay priests to “come out.”
The Catholic Church should allow the clergy, whom he called as “sons of bitches,” to have boyfriends.
“Only I can say bishops are sons of bitches, damn you. That is true. They should come out in the open, cancel celibacy and allow them to have boyfriends,” he exclaimed.
He, however, was quick to stress that he “has nothing against gays.”
“The problem is, who will believe in you now?” Mr. Duterte asked, noting the sexual abuse scandals plaguing the Catholic Church in many parts of the world.
The President, himself a Catholic, has time and again recounted how he was supposedly abused by a priest in a Catholic school. He lambasted the Church as the “most hypocritical institution” and even challenged its leaders to prove him wrong by holding a public debate.
The President also repeatedly said his God is different from the God Catholics worship.
“My parents are all Catholic. I was brought up close to the Church. It’s not my choice actually, it’s a choice of my parents. I am not saying that I do not believe in God. I said, ‘Your God is stupid but my God has a lot of common sense.’ That is exactly the words that came out from my mouth,” Mr. Duterte stated.
“Then they tell me I am going to hell when I really do not have an ambition to be in heaven,” he added in jest.
His animosity towards the prelates may have stemmed from their opposing views on his administration’s policies, specifically the campaign against illegal drugs.
Action within 24 hours
Also, reiterating his stance on ridding the government of graft and corruption until his last day in office, Mr. Duterte called on the public to help him in cleaning the bureaucracy by giving him information about any abusive government officials.
The President even promised extending the privilege to the complainant of slapping the erring official in front of him.
“Magsumbong kayo and I will personally – and I will show you how. I’ll even ask you the penalty that you prefer. I will give you the privilege, I’ll slap the official in front of you,” the Chief Executive expressed.
“So remember that, report it to me within 24 hours. If you’re mad, I’ll slap the offender five times. If you waited long, collect interest, make it 10. When it comes to corruption report it to me,” he added.
Mr. Duterte extended his warning to the military and police personnel and even local executives from the mayor down to barangay captains.
“I will show you how they should behave in public office. I guarantee if there’s a complaint, 24 hours,” he said.