The Catholic Church should initiate internal reforms after Pope Francis admitted that nuns had been sexually abused by priests and bishops, President Rodrigo Duterte said.
“He (Pope Francis) admitted that nuns were preyed on by priests. I told you, the Church has to reform,” Mr. Duterte said in his speech before delegates of the Peace and Order Summit for Barangay Officials in Legazpi City, Albay last Friday.
The recent statement of the Pope was a vindication of sorts for Mr. Duterte who time and again has slammed the Catholic Church for its “hypocritical acts.”
According to the President, the Pontiff publicly acknowledging the issue is proof that Church leaders have no moral ascendancy to throw dirt at his governance of the country.
“I wasn’t joking about it. I will not joke or crack a joke about that. I told you so. The Church has to reform,” he said.
The President himself claimed he experienced sexual abuse from a priest back in his younger years.
“Early on, I’ve said we were abused by the priests. How many of us? I’m not sure,” he shared.
The Chief Executive has repeatedly traded barbs with the clergy by questioning Catholic doctrines, accusing bishops and priests of abuse and corruption and even suggested that “wealthy bishops” should be killed by street idlers.
Malacañang, however, defended Mr. Duterte’s rhetoric against the clerics by stressing it was just the President’s way of conveying his message not to use the pulpit in criticizing his policies, especially his controversial campaign against illegal drugs.
Despite the Chief Executive’s repeated verbal attacks on the Catholic Church, the Palace stressed that recent policies and orders issued by the President are proofs of his respect for the faithful and how he “recognized the fundamental role of religion in the lives of the Filipino people.”
Mr. Duterte even previously praised Pope Francis for being a “progressive” leader.
Cabinet men can’t endorse
Mr. Duterte directed members of his Cabinet to stay neutral in the midterm polls in a bid to quash allegations that state funds would be used during the campaign period.
Members of the Armed Forces and the police should also be strictly non-partisan and that government workers would not be allowed “to do some campaigning for or against anybody.”
“The Cabinet members, including your special assistant here who was my classmate and fraternity brother, I told them, ‘though the law allows you to campaign just like the President, I would insist that you don’t interfere,’” he said four days before the official campaign period starts on 12 February.
The government code of ethics does not prohibit political appointees like Cabinet members from joining campaign sorties. It’s government rank-and-file personnel who are barred from engaging in partisan politics during election season.
However, Mr. Duterte wants his Cabinet members to remain nonpartisan so as to spare them from intrigues and accusations of using government resources to help their favored candidates. He, however, will still join the campaigns of his bets, especially those he said he is indebted to.
“So, just to do away with those issues and to make it really equal for all. Nobody uses government property or funds because that is not allowed. I hope we can make our lives that simple. I hope we can follow that,” he expressed.
The President likewise gave assurances the military and police to stay politically neutral in the elections.
“I can assure you that the Armed Forces and the Police will never side with anybody, any candidate or for any issue for that matter that is submitted to the people for their resolution,” Mr. Duterte said.
Stop extortion, NPA told
Duterte also called on members of the New People’s Army to stop their extortion activities.
“You can come, courtesy of the money of the people of the Philippines. I don’t have funds. You can come and be billeted in simple hotels because luxury is not for us and you can come in peace. You will not be arrested,” he added.
The peace talks between the government and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines were halted in 2018.
The Peace and Order Summit for Barangay Officials was attended by thousands of local leaders who gathered to discuss issues and concerns affecting peace and order in the region such as illegal drugs, violent extremism and criminality.