PRESIDENT Rodrigo Duterte "does not bully" people, Malacañang said on Tuesday, December 18, in response to an oblique attack of Manila Archbishop Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle on the Chief Executive.
"He (Duterte) doesn't bully people," Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo said in a press conference, after Tagle made reference to supposed bullying of those in power in his homily delivered on December 16.
In a December 16 homily during the first Misa de Gallo of the Christmas season at Manila Cathedral, Tagle condemned the abuse of power to intimidate and bully people.
"As Saint John the Baptist said, 'Do not be a bully.' Do not bully anyone. Do not use your power to disrespect others. Do not use your power to coerce others. Do not use your arms to make false accusations against others," the prelate said in his homily.
"Just because you are in power, you already have the right to trample upon others. In truth, the bully, he who uses power to belittle others, he is the one who is most afraid and insecure," he added.
Tagle did not mention any political leader, but his message about bullying came amid Duterte's repeated tirades against the Catholic Church, which has been critical of the government's brutal drug war that killed thousands of suspected drug offenders.
On December 5, Duterte said it would be better to kill bishops, since they are "useless" and "stupid." A day after his remark, Duterte also told the Catholic Church leaders to "shape up."
Sought for reaction, Panelo said Duterte was not affected by Tagle's remarks.
"I agree [that those in power should not be bullying people]. But whom does he (Tagle) refer to?" the Palace official said.
"Because he (Duterte) doesn't bully people. He expresses his sentiments on particular matter, a situation. He expresses dislike and he explains it. He threatens criminals, yes, to make them feel threatened and stop doing their criminal acts," he added.
Panelo also reminded the Catholic clergy that "using power to bully or coerce" people also applies to religious leaders.
He then advised Catholic Church leaders to avoid using the pulpit to attack others.
"Those in power would also apply to those in the Church. If you use the pulpit for bullying people, then it's the same. If the message is in the generic or general term, then I agree. You cannot be using power to bully or to coerce people. The President is against that too," he said. (SunStar Philippines)