Tagle to Duterte: Members of clergy getting death threats
Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle, the archbishop of Manila, has reportedly sent a message to President Rodrigo Duterte that members of the clergy had received death threats from someone working for the Duterte family.
The President has denied having a hand in some groups allegedly out to harm members of the Catholic clergy.
Instead, he said there were groups seeking to sow controversies.
In a speech at the first political rally of the ruling Partido Demokratiko Pilipino-Lakas ng Bayan (PDP-Laban) in Cebu City on Sunday night, Mr. Duterte read a text message purportedly “coming from a cardinal in Rome.”
Although he didn’t name the cardinal, Tagle was at the Vatican for a summit of bishops on sex abuse called by Pope Francis.
“The cardinal sent a text. I think it was intended [for] me. Where was it, Bong?” the President said, referring to senatorial candidate Christopher “Bong” Go, his former special assistant, who was at the rally.
Go then handed the President a cellular phone.
No such groups
“Good day po! Greetings from Rome! I was informed by Bishop David that some priests got death threats from someone claiming to be working for the President’s family. Just to let you know. Baka may naninira. Thanks! We pray,” the President said, reading the text message.
But the President said he told the cardinal that he didn’t have such groups.
“I told them, I do not have such groups. Thank you, cardinal. Just to let you know that there are persons using the name of the President and his family to threaten. You should know. Please take care,” he added.
The President then warned those who would harm priests and nuns: “Do not try to do it. The religious has nothing to do with the vagaries of life.”
“Lay off… Once you touch a nun and priest or imam… Don’t harm them because they are religious people. If you touch them, we will have to fight. They are not included [in our war on drugs],” he added.
The administration’s antinarcotics campaign has killed thousands.
Sought for comment, Fr. Jerome Secillano, executive secretary of the public affairs committee of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines, said there was a need to determine if indeed there were groups out to harm members of the clergy.
“If there are, what can they get out of it? The least that they can do is to eliminate voices of dissent and criticism,” he said.
But this will hurt the administration in the long run, Secillano added.
Secillano said it would reflect badly on the President, who had previously called for the killing of “useless bishops.”
“Having made those threats before, is the President ready to take accountability for each drop of blood from our bishops who might be killed?
“Or just like the bloody ‘tokhang’ (antidrug campaign), will he just simply wash his hands and feign ignorance for the killing of thousands that include the young and the innocents?” Secillano asked.
The President arrived at Plaza Independencia in Cebu City for the PDP-Laban rally shortly after 9 p.m.
He came from Cebu Technological University on Palma Street, about two kilometers away, to give cash gifts to P1,500 beneficiaries of the government’s unconditional cash transfer program. —Reports from Dale Israel, Ador Vincent Mayol and Tina G. Santos
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