DAVAO CITY, Philippines — Malacañang yesterday slammed Catholic bishops for their continued attacks on President Duterte and yet the prelates are not able to take criticism over what they have unleashed against the Chief Executive.
“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,” presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo said in a statement yesterday.
Panelo said that as expected, the detractors of the President are once again condemning him for his latest remarks on the bishops, wherein Duterte urged the people to rob and kill bishops who have been living in luxury.
He likewise said that if only these detractors do not turn a blind eye to the context of the President’s speeches and momentarily suspend their incorrigible biases, they will be one with the majority of the Filipinos in comprehending what the President means.
The President has also been very clear about the separation of church and state but that it does not bode well when some priests and bishops use the pulpit to attack him.
“Do not use the religion, because if you use religion na demonyo ako (that I’m a devil) and if you use the pulpit in saying sana mamatay si Duterte (hope Duterte dies) during homily, that is another story. Do not use the pulpit to attack me,” Duterte earlier said.
Panelo stressed that listening to the speech of the President with an open mind and watching his body language, one can easily discern that Duterte was only airing his sentiments against some Church leaders who are living in luxury, contrary to their teachings.
“His use of figures of speech, as we have repeatedly emphasised, is his style in articulating and dramatizing a point. In the case instant, he wishes to stress the failure of some bishops to empathize with the masses as they live comfortably in their rectories while the latter endure the vestiges of poverty,” Panelo said.
He pointed out that as manifested by his actions and policies, the President respects the Christian faith as shown by certain moves he did recently.
For one thing, Panelo cited the President’s signing of Republic Act No. 11163, otherwise known as the National Bible Day Act, which recognizes the value of the Bible as the core of Christian faith and its reading as a communion between Christians and their Creator.
“The Chief Executive’s message where he joined all Filipino Catholics and devotees of the Black Nazarene in commemorating the traslacion and acknowledging that our people’s enduring devotion to the Black Nazarene attests to our (the President included himself) strong faith in God” and expressing hope “that this important celebration rekindle not only our (and Duterte included himself again) faith and reliance in the Divine, but also inspire each of us to do our part in improving the lives of our people, especially the poorest among us,” Panelo said.
He explained that Duterte’s actions showed that he recognizes the fundamental role of religion in the lives of the Filipino people, all with its rich cultural, social and ethnic diversity.
Panelo said it is therefore the fervent hope of the President 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.
“Given his view on the importance of religion and even including himself as a believer in the Divine and the Black Nazarene, it becomes the duty of the President to subject some of its leaders on their hypocritical practices, especially so when some of them commenced the adverse narratives against him using the pulpit and even wishing the President’s demise,” Panelo added.