“Yan sa newspaper ngayon, may binugbog yong pari na batang-bata. Kasi hindi pinakain yung aso niyang Labrador... Kita mo ‘tong mga gagong ito. Para talagang mga Espanyol yang mga ulol... Itong mga pari. Huwag masyadong sobrahan ang pakialam ninyo sa...” -President Duterte, Dec. 29, 2018, Kidapawan, Cotabato City
FR. Decoroso Olmillo, 61, of The Nativity of Mary Church in Canduman, Mandanue City, owns a Labrador dog that the convent cook’s daughter was assigned by the priest to feed. One day, the girl, 15 and with disability, didn’t tend to the dog as she was going around the parish to ask for Christmas gifts. The priest allegedly used from a strip of carton to beat and kicked her, cursing as he did. On the complaint of a neighbor, police arrested and detained Fr. Olmillo.
Cebu Archbishop Jose Palma promptly pulled out Fr. Olmillo from the parish and created a panel of three persons to investigate the incident. Perhaps they will include the warrantless arrest in their inquiry, a fact ignored by many police and other people.
He picked up story
It involved a priest and an alleged act of abuse on a minor: the kind of story that looked bigger in the local news cycle, especially during an uneventful holiday season. But hardly as staple for national news.
Not unless the president picked it up. And President Duterte did.
It was inevitable as it involved a member of the Catholic Church clergy against whom--bishops and priests alike–Duterte has been sniping at, intermittently, during the year.
Never mind that Fr. Olmilla was not criticizing any of the government policies and acts. Unlike Caloocan Bishop Pablo Virgilio David who has openly opposed Duterte’s campaign against illegal drugs, Fr. Olmilla privately raged over the girl’s neglect of his pet dog.
The president dwelt more on the “Spanish style” behavior of Fr. Olmilla than the harm caused on the girl. Addressing the priests and bishops, Duterte asked them not to be excessive in meddling with affairs of government. It was not an element in the Canduman incident, which plainly related to blowing up of temper by the priest, resulting in the attack on the girl.
Fr. Damaso stereotype
Like other church critics, President Duterte couldn’t resist using the “Fr. Damaso stereotype”: a fat, ugly, selfish, lazy curate of the fictional San Diego church and town in Jose Rizal’s “Noli Me Tangere.” Damaso was the biological father of Maria Clara, who lusted over pretty women and because of the scandal over his illegitimate daughter was transferred to another town and later found dead during the transition.
History writer Ambeth Ocampo in an Oct. 8, 2010 column in the “Inquirer” didn’t mention among the priest’s sins his meddling with or criticizing the government. What stood out was that Damaso had sexual liaison with the wife of Kapitan Tiago, an opium dealer, which made him a lecherous priest and secret father of a child but he was not a drug trafficker or a subversive.
Greater burden on priests
In the Duterte era, members of the Catholic Church clergy are obviously under greater strain. They are in the cross-hairs of the president’s gun sight. Any abuse or excess that they do or are accused of doing is seized upon and used as argument against the church and its tenets.
Duterte is not content with trying to shoot down such church precepts as heaven and hell and the holy trinity. He pounces on each act of bishop or priest who missteps or falls and, lumping and calling the “servants of God” hypocrites, puts the church critics and their church down.