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Palace tells Church: Give Duterte a break

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte AP

President Rodrigo Duterte. AP FILE PHOTO

Malacañang on Sunday asked the Catholic Church to give the “working President” a break, after President Duterte publicly vilified the bishops for criticizing his brutal war on drugs.

Criticism of the antinarcotics campaign that has cost the lives of more than 7,000 people since Mr. Duterte took office in June last year is a red line for the foulmouthed President, who had sworn to kill tens of thousands of criminal suspects and feed them to the fish in Manila Bay.

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In two nationally televised speeches last week, he called the Catholic bishops “sons of bitches” and “monkeys” and accused them of corruption, womanizing and pedophilia.

Two weeks ago, Mr. Duterte sent a “personal letter” to Pope Francis thanking him for visiting the Philippines in January 2015 and assuring the Pontiff of his “highest esteem and respect” then, in his speeches last week, challenged the Filipino bishops to resign, telling them they had no moral ascendancy to criticize his war on drugs.

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“I challenge you now. I challenge the Catholic Church. You are full of shit. You all smell bad, corruption and all,” Mr. Duterte said at a meeting with the families of 44 police commandos killed in a clash with Moro rebels in Mamasapano, Maguindanao province, two years ago.

What provoked his anger?

For Malacañang, nothing much. Mr. Duterte was just being himself.

“The President is just human, right? He is a working President. He works hard, he gets tired. Sometimes he gets annoyed,” Assistant Presidential Communications Secretary Marie Banaag said on public broadcaster dzRB.

“I hope we can give our President allowance for mistakes. If he is remiss in his language, at least he’s working,” she said.

Wise and prudent

The bishops are grappling with major sociopolitical issues, including extrajudicial killings in Mr. Duterte’s war on drugs, at their annual general assembly, which ends today, but they are not expected to focus on the President’s attacks on them.

“I’m sure they’ll not dwell much [on] it. The bishops are wise and prudent enough to be engaged [in a dispute],” said Fr. Jerome Secillano, executive secretary of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines.

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TAGS: Catholic bishops, Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines, Catholic Church, CBCP, Jerome Secillano, Rodrigo Duterte, SAF 44, Special Action Force, war on drugs
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