In December last year, President Duterte suggested to the Filipino bystanders to “rob and kill” Catholic bishops. Calling them “useless”, Duterte said, “These bishops, kill them. They are useless fools. All they do is criticize”.
This conflict started when the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines issued a pastoral letter for church services. Among the letter are these words, “To consent and keep silent in front of evil is to be an accomplice to it. If we neglect drug addicts and pushers, we have become part of the drug problem.”
Bishop Pablo Virgilio David and the President have been criticizing each other for months last year in relation to the Catholic church’ opposition against Duterte’s “war on drugs” and Extra Judicial Killings (EJK). Duterte’s responses were stronger and harsher that includes curses and insults. However, the bishop still remained calm and firm against Duterte’s intimidating verbal attacks.
It was also known that on February last year Duterte said that within 25 years, the Catholic Church will disappear because of its crimes and allegations of sexual abuse. He also stated (in Tagalog), “When they are aroused, they abuse nuns. If they’re gay, they go to children. Who needs a religion like that?”
Surprisingly, during the campaign rally of the Partido Demokratiko Pilipino-Lakas ng Bayan last Sunday, February 24, 2019, president Duterte uttered in front of many, “Do not touch the priests, they had nothing to do with politics.” This sudden shift of statement has surprised many as the president himself encouraged the harming of the Catholic priests. The President also repeated that no one should take his negative comments and threats seriously.
This is in response to Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle’s text to the President stating that some people claiming to be working for the President’s family are sending death threats to Bishop David and other priests.
While attending the sexual abuse summit in Vatican, Cardinal Tagle texted to the President: “Good day po! Greetings from Rome! I was informed by Bishop David that some priests got death threats from someone claiming to be working for the President’s family. Just to let you know. Baka may naninira. Thanks! We pray”.
Meanwhile, on the same speech, Duterte also stated, “Either Muslims or Christians, they had nothing to do with us. Do not do it. Do not try to do it. Religious leaders had nothing to do with the vagaries of life. Lay off! Stop threatening them or you will have to face me!”
“What I can say about that is this: My quarrel with the Catholic Church is personal. You, who are drug addicts, don’t harm bishops and cardinals because they are not involved in the political ruckus”, Duterte clarified.