Duterte loves, respects Pope Francis; statement taken out of context—Cayetano
Sen. Alan Peter Cayetano on Tuesday defended his running mate Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte against criticisms that the latter received after cursing at Pope Francis for the inconvenience that his visit in January caused travelers.
Cayetano said Duterte loves and respects the head of the Roman Catholic Church, noting that the tough-talking mayor’s statement during their proclamation as the presidential and vice presidential bets of the Partido Demokratiko Pilipino-Lakas ng Bayan (PDP-Laban) was “taken out of context.”
“Pope Francis is a man of God. He is loved and respected by millions of people, from different religious affiliations worldwide, Mayor Duterte included. But even Pope Francis would never allow people to suffer at his expense,” Cayetano said in a statement.
“Traffic ang minura ni Mayor Duterte, hindi si Pope Francis. He was not directing his anger and frustration at the Pope; he was expressing the people’s frustration over the government’s incompetence in handling the metro’s worsening traffic situation and the daily suffering and inconvenience it causes,” he said.
Cayetano added that Duterte “deeply respects” Filipinos’ religious beliefs and spirituality.
“Those who know him can attest to this. He himself has a deep relationship with God. He doesn’t talk about it publicly, but I know this personally having discovered this through my constant engagement with him,” he said.
Reminding the public that national debate must focus on “how to change the country for the better,” the vice presidential aspirant also highlighted Duterte’s “authenticity,” noting that the tough-talking mayor’s manner of speaking was a result of his “environment and experience.”
“Mayor Duterte’s environment and experience brought him up speaking tough, rough and uncensored. The mayor came from a time and place of great conflict and suffering. While the mayor’s words and statements were stronger than what is deemed socially accepted by some, and may rub some in the wrong way, the most important thing is, he is authentic and his heart is in the right place. He is who he is. He will always fight for the people and never allow them to suffer,” Cayetano said.
“We are here to change the country, not to change him,” he added.
Cayetano also took a swipe at presidential spokesperson Edwin Lacierda, who was not amused with Duterte’s remarks. On his Twitter account, Lacierda said: “Mayor Duterte, you can say all you want about politicians but you don’t curse my Pope Francis! #defendthepope”
The senator questioned Lacierda’s sincerity, noting that the secretary supposedly justified the hiding of poor families during the Papal visit, and calling the government’s “lack of action” over the bullet-planting scam and taxing on balikbayan boxes as a “great disservice to the people.”
“Sec. Lacierda obviously wanted to anger the people by using Pope Francis to score propaganda points… Before Sec. Lacierda points an accusing finger at Mayor Duterte, maybe he should look at his own backyard and see how the government’s flawed policies and inaction have greatly disadvantaged the people,” Cayetano added.