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President’s tirade not meant to encourage violent attacks — Palace

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By Genalyn Kabiling

President Duterte was not seeking to encourage violent attacks on places of worship amid his tirade against Catholic Church and its teachings, Malacañang clarified Monday.

Presidential Spokesman Salvador Panelo said although Duterte has criticized some church doctrines and alleged misbehavior of some priests, the President was actually outraged by the twin explosions that hit a cathedral in Jolo, Sulu.

Presidential Spokesman Salvador Panelo (OPS / MANILA BULLETIN)

Presidential Spokesman Salvador Panelo (OPS / MANILA BULLETIN)

“Definitely not. In fact, the President is outraged. He’s so angry that they have not respected a place of worship – that’s why he declared war against all these perpetrators,” Panelo said during the Palace press briefing when asked if the Jolo blast was connected with Duterte’s tirade against the church.

He said the President was merely questioning some church doctrines and not necessarily attacking the religious institution.

“It helps in cleansing the institution of its members. But if you say that the President’s criticism of them would embolden others to disrespect the Church, I don’t think so,” he said.

Panelo insisted that those attacks on places of worship apparently do not believe in that religion.

“In other words, they are disrespecting precisely the religion. It’s directed against, to my mind, apart from challenging the capability of this government to secure the safety of the citizenry, it is also showing its utmost disrespect to this religion,” he said.

Two explosions rocked the Jolo cathedral last Sunday that claimed the lives of 20 people and injured several others. The government has denounced the terror attack and vowed to pursue the Abu Sayyaf Group, the suspected culprit of the blasts.

Panelo, meantime, urged anew the church leaders to focus on spiritual matters instead of meddling in the affairs of the state. He said they should pray for the President and guide the flock about right and wrong.

“That was [what] the President is saying, he feels that, stop interfering with my governance,” Panelo said.

“What he is saying is: the Church, you are supposed to be in the spiritual side, huwag na iyong governance ng gobyerno. Kasi you are questioning the method by which this President is doing his duty. Eh ‘di since kayo sa spiritual eh ipagdasal ninyo na lang, turuan ninyo na lang ang tao kung ano ang tama at mali,” he added.

He said the administration already has enough critics from the opposition camp and the human rights groups. “Dadagdagan mo pa eh supposed to be spiritual side ka. Iyon ang punto ni Presidente,” eh added.

The Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) recently issued a pastoral statement deploring the cycle of hate destroying the country’s moral fabric.

The bishops recognized it has been at the receiving end of cruel words but pointed out the freedom of expression does not give anyone the right to insult other people’s faith.

They also declared they have no intention of interfering in the state affairs. They however stressed it was their duty to defend the flock when attacked by wolves.

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