Catholic Church leaders have asked Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte to tone down his attacks on the clergy but it seems like it fell on deaf ears.
Duterte said in a mix of Bisaya and Filipino in a speech delivered from Malacañang Palace on Wednesday, “The problem with these idiots is they think they are all saints, but the government, military, police are all demons.”
Critics of the president claim that his rants against the hypocrisy of the clergy could have led to the killings of priests, with three members of the clergy killed by assailants in a span of six months.
Duterte denied the allegations, stating he never said anything against the church.
According to a report by Rappler, he said, “‘Stop persecuting priests, [but] I didn’t say anything.”
Likely referring to one of the killed priests, Mark Ventura, the president said, “If you are a priest, and you have an affair with the wife of a soldier or a mayor, you will really die.”
He continued, “I have the same issue with that priest, women. I suppressed it because it’s not nice, but if they continue talking on, I’ll release the information.”
ABS-CBN also quoted the president saying, “A priest is no better than me. Some priests have two wives.”
A high-ranking clergy, Lingayen Dagupan Archbishop Socrates Villegas, together with other leaders of the Catholic Church, released a strong statement early this week in light of the killing of Nueva Ecija-based priest Richmond Nilo.
“They are killing our flock. They are killing us shepherds. They are killing our faith. They are cursing our Church. They are killing God again as they did in Calvary,” read the statement.
The leaders want Duterte “to stop the verbal persecution of the Catholic Church because such attacks can wittingly embolden more crimes against priests.”
On Sunday, Father Nilo was shot by still unidentified assailants, making him the third priest reportedly killed in the last six months.
Duterte has been a vocal critic of the Catholic Church’s corruption, even urging his audience at one time to read a book by the late journalist Aries Rufo called Altar of Secrets.
Some church leaders have also criticized the president’s war on drugs which has killed over 4,000 drug suspects, according to the latest data from the Philippine National Police (PNP). However, the Human Rights Watch said the number is actually closer to 12,000.
Philippine Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said yesterday that there was no connection between the attacks of Duterte on the church and the killings of priests.