Palace: No apology from the President
There won’t be any apology coming from President Rodrigo Duterte, Malacañang said on Wednesday, rejecting the suggestion of Christian evangelist Bro. Eddie Villanueva that the Chief Executive apologize to God in public for calling Him “stupid.”
As the uproar over the President’s “insult to God” raged across the predominantly Catholic country, Malacañang quietly held a dialogue with the Philippine Council for Evangelical Churches (PCEC) in a bid to mend any rift.
“The God that I know will not demand a public apology,” presidential spokesperson Harry Roque said in response to Villanueva’s suggestion.
Roque told ANC that “the God that I know is the God of love, and He is too big for any words that may come from a mortal.” He and two others earlier held a dialogue with PCEC leaders.
Freedom of expression
Besides, Roque said, he believed nobody could demand anything from anyone, but critics could always respond to the President in their exercise of their freedom of expression.
Villanueva, founder of the Jesus Is Lord Movement (JIL), told an ANC public affairs show that insulting God smacked of blasphemy “in the highest order” and invited the “wrath of God,” hence, the need for apology.
“The Bible is clear, when you slander God, you are inviting curses not only to yourself but to the entire nation, like calamities,” he said.
“No one can mock God. In Psalm 2, those who are mocking, persecuting God’s people, the faith of God’s people . . . God is just laughing at them. They are inviting the wrath of God,” he added.
On the religious leader’s warning of fire and brimstone, Roque said: “That’s a matter of belief and faith.”
The JIL, which counts 10 million members worldwide, asked the President to apologize to God in public in a June 25 letter to him.
JIL prayer rally
Villanueva warned that his group would mobilize a prayer rally if the President rebuffed its calls.
“We are representing 10 million people. I don’t believe the President will ignore this. Because once he ignores the collective wisdom of the body of Christ, this may lead to a kind of huge prayer rally,” he said.
The President, notorious for having cursed even Pope Francis and world leaders, has been unapologetic about the remarks he made in last Friday’s speech in Davao City, in which he took aim at the biblical story of creation, and questioned why God made Adam and Eve perfect only to allow them to fall from grace.
“Who is this stupid God? You created something perfect and then you think of an event that would destroy the quality of your work,” the 73-year-old leader said. “How can you rationalize that God? How can you believe him?”
On Wednesday afternoon, Roque, Foreign Undersecretary Ernesto Abella and Pastor “Boy” Saycon of the Council for Philippine Affairs met with PCEC Bishop Noel Pantoja as part of the government initiative to mend any rift with the Church.
Opportunity for dialogue
Pantoja called the dialogue a “blessing” amid the furor, saying it “opened up an opportunity for the Christian Church to be able to have a dialogue with leaders of the nation.”
The PCEC, which earlier denounced the President’s remarks, hoped to sit down with the President anytime “so we can pray for him and express our desire to build our nation,” he said in a joint briefing with the Malacañang team.
Roque said his group hoped to meet with Catholic bishops next, clarifying that the dialogue had been prompted by the killings of priests, not by the President’s recent comments against God.
The President has picked on the Church in his rambling speeches over sex abuses by priests in response to its growing criticism of its brutal war on drugs.
As more members of the clergy came out to rebuke him, Manila Archbishop Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle called for sobriety.
“Be at peace. Be calm. Don’t let things disturb your inner peace. Let us read the situation with the eyes of faith,” Tagle said in a letter to priests in his diocese.
Respect for all religions
Quoting the Second Vatican Council, Tagle called for respect for non-Catholics and their religions, as well as nonbelievers.
“All people should strive to respect those who differ from their beliefs. Religions are not to be used for conflicts but for mutual understanding and peace,” he said.
Tagle said the matter of questioning God and God’s ways was “as old as humanity and religions.”
Cebu Archbishop Jose Palma called the President’s rant “yabag” (Cebuano word for “out of tune”), but appealed to the faithful to pray for the President’s enlightenment and discovery of the way of the truth.
“We hope he will realize that what he is doing does not present a good picture of him,” Palma said in an interview. —With reports from Tina G. Santos, Ador Vincent Mayol, Carla P. Gomez, Joey S. Gabieta and ANC
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.