Bishops offer olive branch to Duterte
WHILE some of them had earlier questioned the fitness of Rodrigo Duterte to be President, Catholic bishops were now offering his incoming administration “vigilant collaboration.”
“The greatest promise the Church can offer any government is vigilant collaboration, and that offer we make now,” Lingayen-Dagupan Archbishop Socrates Villegas, president of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP), said in a statement.
“We will urge our people to work with the government for the good of all, and we shall continue to be vigilant so that ever so often we may speak out to teach and to prophesy, to admonish and to correct—for this is our vocation,” Villegas said in the statement under the heading, “Get up now, let us go!”
Before the elections, Villegas had advised voters to judge for themselves if Duterte was the right choice for the presidency. This after the Davao City mayor had cracked a joke about an Australian lay missionary who was raped and killed during a prison hostage situation in 1989.
In December last year, Villegas urged the faithful to seriously think about the kind of leadership Duterte would bring.
“Vulgarity is corruption. When we find vulgarity funny, we have really become beastly and barbaric as a people,” Villegas had said in a statement after Duterte in his proclamation speech cussed at Pope Francis, blaming him for the traffic gridlock during the papal visit in January last year.
In the spirit of unity, the CBCP’s post-election statement emphasized the Church’s continual guidance and prayers for the elected leaders.
“To those who have been voted to office, we assure them of our prayers, principally for wisdom, that they may discern God’s will for his people and courageously do as he bid,” Villegas said.
He said several critical, even spiteful, voices had asked the prelates to desist from “interfering” in politics.
“We cannot,” he said, explaining that “it would be a denial of Christ’s universal Lordship were we to desist from reminding his disciples of what fidelity to him—in all things, including political life—demands.”
“We do not aspire after office and we have sought none. We do not even impose upon the Catholic faithful a set of anointed candidates,” he said.
To those candidates who lost, Villegas said they were more than the positions they aspired to. He challenged them to do good even if they did not win public office.
“You, as persons, as sons and daughters of God, are infinitely so much more than the positions after which you aspired. Rather than becoming despondent and discouraged, you should challenge yourselves. It is for you to discover your paths, in faith and in docility to God’s spirit.”