By Argyll Cyrus Geducos
President Duterte said that he never encouraged the public to attack priests as he claimed that his tirades against the Catholic Church are not enough to cause the murder of three members of the clergy during the past six months.
Duterte made the statement after Lingayen Archbishop Socrates Villegas and other members of the clergy said in a statement that Duterte’s “verbal persecution” unwittingly encourages attacks on priests.
“Let us implore the grace of God to touch the heart of the President of the Philippines to stop the verbal persecution of the Catholic Church because such attacks can unwittingly embolden more crimes against priests,” Villegas and other members of the clergy said in a statement.
In his speech during the oath-taking ceremony of newly-promoted uniformed personnel, Duterte denied allegations that he is verbally persecuting the Catholic Church.
“May nabasa ako. Sabi (I read something which said), ‘Stop persecuting priests.’ Wala naman akong sinabi (I never said anything),” he said Wednesday night.
According to Duterte, he even tried to hide the information that slain priest Father Mark Ventura was possibly killed due to his supposed illicit love affairs with the wives of prominent people. Venutra was was shot after officiating a mass in Gattaran, Cagayan on April 29.
“May binigay sa akin ang pulis but sinuppress (suppress) ko kasi ‘di maganda para sa Katoliko. Eh babae eh. Pareha kami ng issue ng pari na ‘yun–babae (The police gave me information but I tried to suppress it because it does not look good for the Catholic Church. It’s about women. That priest and I have the same issue–women),” he said.
“Eh pinigilan ko kasi ‘di maganda. Pero kung sige sila magdaldal, bitawan ko ‘yan (I tried to hide the information because it is unpleasant. But if they keep on yakking, I will really release the information),” he added.
Duterte, in a speech last month, showed the matrix of Ventura’s supposed love affairs with the wives of prominent people. The matrix was titled, “Possible Motive (Love Triangle).”
In his speech Wednesday night, Duterte said that he gave the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) a copy of the said matrix to show one possible reason behind the murder of one of the three slain priests these past six months.
“Kung gusto ng Katoliko, ilabas ko ‘yung matrix kung bakit namatay ‘yung pari (If the Catholic wants it, I will release the matrix why that priest died). I gave a copy to the CBCP,” he said.
“Sabihin ko, pari, kabitin mo asawa ng mayor, mamatay ka talaga (I will tell the priest, you have an affair with a mayor’s wife, then you will really die),” he added.
“‘Yung mga pari na ito (These priests) are no better than me,” he continued.
Duterte has been lashing out at the Catholic Church for criticizing his administration’s controversial statements and policies including the drug war, the push for the revival of capital punishment, and the House of Representatives’ push for divorce.
Malacañang earlier said that Duterte’s statements against the Catholic Church are not enough basis to spark the killings of members of the clergy.
The Palace, however, assured that the government and the Philippine National Police (PNP) have mounted investigations into these crimes, and have vowed to bring the perpetrators to justice.
Last week, Father Richmond Nilo was slain by unidentified gunmen. He is the third priest to be slain since December, 2017. The first one was Father Tito Paez in Jaen, Nueva Ecija.