‘Santo Rodrigo’ just a joke – Palace
A “playful jab” on saints cannot sway a 2,000-year-old faith like Christianity, or any major religion for that matter.
This was how Malacañang defended President Rodrigo Duterte’s latest faux pas in which he jokingly questioned the relevance of All Saints’ Day, a tradition observed by millions of Filipinos.
Presidential spokesperson Salvador Panelo said the President’s statement, as described in the news, “were said in jest” to “make light” of the situation briefing on Typhoon “Rosita” (international name: Yutu) that wreaked havoc on northern Luzon.
“The strength and credibility of a religious faith that has been there for more than 2,000 years and survived wars and internecine strife cannot be affected by what some deem as an assault by nonbelievers nor will its faithful be offended by any playful jab on its saints,” Panelo said on Sunday.
He added that Christianity, or any major religion that preceded it, would survive the test of time.
‘No explanation needed’
Panelo made the remarks in defense of Mr. Duterte’s latest gaffe, which drew flak from leaders of the Catholic Church.
“[His] remarks should not be viewed beyond the description of the reporters covering the event. A joke is a joke and the same does not require an explanation,” he said.
He stressed that such jokes should not “be given as a religious slight.”
It was not the first time that the President attacked the Catholic faith, having even called God “stupid” several times earlier this year.
On Thursday, Mr. Duterte questioned the observance of All Saints’ Day by Catholics, who flock to cemeteries on that day to remember their dead.
“So, happy All Saints’ Day. Why is … Who do these Catholics … Why is there an All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day?” he said during a situation briefing in Isabela province.
He added: “We don’t know who those saints are, those fools, those drunkards.”
Mr. Duterte jokingly told officials that he would give them another patron saint: himself.
“You stay here, I’ll give you a patron saint. A patron saint where you won’t have to go elsewhere. Get hold of a picture of mine, place it on your altar, Santo Rodrigo,” the President said—to chuckles from local officials and some Cabinet secretaries.
He made the remarks just hours after Malacañang issued his message for All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day, in which he encouraged Filipinos to “emulate the saints.”
‘Faith, hope and love’
“We Filipinos welcome the month of November with open hearts as we remember our saints and our dearly departed loved ones, whose lives have deeply inspired us to grow in faith, hope and love,” the President said in his statement.
“Together, let us emulate our saints, pray for the eternal repose of souls and deepen our engagement with our communities as we work for real and lasting change,” he added.
‘They were not offended’
Panelo pointed out that the President’s remarks in Isabela were meant to “make light” of the situation following the wrath of Rosita last week.
“The fact that they burst into laughter (as shown by the video clips of the TV news) showed that they were not offended by what the good bishop and a few critics perceived to be an offensive religious statement against the celebration of All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day,” he said.
Panelo pointed out that Mr. Duterte, after presiding over the briefing in Isabela, flew home to Davao City on Thursday night to visit his parents’ tombs at the Roman Catholic cemetery there.
He added that even the President recognized the Filipinos’ “obligations to the dead” of communing with one’s ancestors.
Louder than words
Instead of taking the President’s words out of context, Panelo said critics should look at one’s actions and not just words.
“Actions should be given more weight than the spoken words when one ascertains the true attributes of a person for certainly actions speak louder than words,” he added.
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.