IN HIS usual impromptu speech delivered Wednesday, June 20, President Rodrigo Duterte revived his allegations against Catholic priests when church bells in Iloilo tolled, prompting him to pause for nearly a minute.
Duterte was telling his audience in Iloilo about some of the Catholic Church leaders’ alleged illicit affairs when the bells tolled.
“It’s the tolling of the bells,” the President said, then kept silent for about 45 seconds.
Duterte made the gesture even though he had repeatedly launched strongly-worded tirades against the Catholic Church for criticizing his brutal crackdown on illegal drugs.
He said that as a Christian and a believer of God, he still respects the tolling of the bells.
“I do not want to create a scene but you know, I have my duty. I am a Christian and I believe in God. I respect the tolling of the bells,” Duterte said.
On June 13, Duterte claimed that priests are “no better” than him in terms of having illicit affairs with women.
The President’s earlier remark was in response to Archbishop Socrates Villegas’ call that the former stop “verbal persecution” that can unintentionally encourage “more crimes against priests.”
A day after Duterte issued the statement, Malacañang said the Chief Executive expressed opennes to possible dialogue with the leaders of the Catholic Church.
Duterte, during a second event he attended in Iloilo, went on with criticizing the Catholic Church, reiterating his intent to release the supposed matrix that would show the illegal acts committed by priests.
He, however, stressed that he refused to do so as “it could not be good for the Catholic Church.”
The President then later on clarified that his government does not have a policy against the Catholic Church.
He said his tirades against the Catholic Church was just in response to the insinuation of some bishops that his attacks against them might trigger armed men to kill priests.
“Wala kaming policy na galit kami sa pari. Nothing of the sort. As a matter of fact, nirerespeto ko ‘yung simbahan,” he said.
(We don’t have a policy against priests. Nothing of the sort. As a matter of fact, I respect the church.)
“Ang akin lang, mahinto lang itong a few bishops na medyo, ‘yung parang nililink nila ‘yung gobyerno. Sa totoo lang, hindi ko kayang mag-patay ng pari, pati babae o bata,” he added.
(I just want a few bishops to stop linking the government [to the recent killings of the priests]. Frankly, I could not kill a priest, and even a woman or a child.) (SunStar Philippines)