CATHOLIC Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines president Socrates Villegas expressed his disgust Tuesday over PDP-Laban standard bearer Rodrigo Duterte for cursing Pope Francis in a speech Monday, and denounced his adultery, killing and vulgarity as forms of corruption.
While Duterte supporters sought to do damage control, the Davao City mayor shot back at the Catholic Church, saying he was abused as a child by a Catholic priest when he was studying at the Jesuit-run Ateneo de Davao University.
“I was abused by one of you when I was young,” Duterte said, addressing himself to Church leaders who criticized him. “Priests are also corrupt.”
When pressed for details about his abuse, Duterte blurted: “The priest was holding my penis, where else?”
He said his revelations would “destroy the church and the present status of so many priests.”
“I will tell you the names of the prominent persons who were my batch mates [in the Ateneo.] All of us were victims of sexual abuses committed against minors at that time, including me. And I will tell you my story.”
“We are all abused! Sexually!” Duterte exclaimed.
In a statement posted on his personal Facebook account, the CBCP president urged all Filipino voters to think twice before choosing Duterte as president.
“Is this the leadership by example that Mayor Duterte excites in us? Is this the leadership by example that makes a public official deserving of the title “Honorable”? I grieve for my country,”Villegas said.
Villegas’ statement came after Duterte delivered a speech on Monday where he cursed Pope Francis for causing traffic during his visit to Manila in January.
Duterte said that he was trapped in traffic in Manila for five hours because of that.
“I wanted to call out, Pope, son of a b----, go home. Don’t visit us here,” he said.
Villegas also said he grieved for Filipinos who found Duterte’s vulgarity funny, saying that individuals who tolerated such behavior by laughing at it were themselves becoming “beastly and barbaric.”
“Vulgarity is corruption. When we find vulgarity funny, we have really become beastly and barbaric as a people,” Villegas said.
“When a revered and loved and admired man like Pope Francis is cursed by a political candidate and the audience laughs, I can only bow my head and grieve in great shame. My countrymen have gone to the dregs,” he said.
He said that the kind of president that voters should choose are “visionaries and exemplary.”
“What the world desperately needs now is leadership by example. We have so many leaders in office and many more aspiring to sit in office but are they examples of good citizenship? If the leaders we choose are to be leaders for national progress they must be visionaries and exemplary,” Villegas said.
He said that corruption may be rooted to Philippine politics, but said that “killing, adultery and vulgarity” are also forms of corruption.
“Corruption is indeed a great scourge of Philippine politics. The usual face of corruption that we recognize easily is stealing from public funds. Corruption, like a monster, is a devil with many faces. Killing people is corruption. Killing is a crime and a sin whether it is done by criminals or public officials no matter what the intention. Adultery is corruption. It makes married love cheap and uses people for pleasure. Adultery corrupts the family; it destroys children and victimizes the weak. Vulgarity is corruption,” he said.
Duterte, who substituted PDP-Laban presidential aspirant Martin Diño, has admitted earlier that he is a womanizer and has already killed some 1,000 criminals in Davao.
Other bishops also lambasted Duterte, calling him “irresponsible and disrespectful.” With Macon Ramos-Araneta and Sandy Araneta
Manila Auxiliary Bishop Broderick Pabillo said if parents do not want to learn their kids curse, they should be careful in choosing their next leader.
Cotobato Auxiliary Bishop Jose Collin Bagaforo said people should have second thoughts about Duterte’s candidacy, saying what he did in Davao might not be applicable to the entire country.
He also warned that if Duterte becomes president, the country might slip back into a dictatorship.
Duterte supporter and former governor Manny Piñol quoted Duterte as apologizing for his remarks about the Pope.
“I can never curse my Pope. I was cursing at incompetence. If it was taken by some in that light, I sincerely apologize. I will continue to curse so our suffering nation takes action,” Piñol quoted Duterte as saying in a Facebook post.
In a statement late Tuesday afternoon, Duterte said that it was never his intention to malign the Pope.
“Mayor Rody Duterte expressed sadness and regret that the part of his speech mentioning Pope Francis in relation to the monstrous traffic gridlock in January, came across as being disrespectful to the person of His Holiness Pope Francis. It was farthest from his mind and was never his intention,” the statement said.
“[Duterte] acknowledges that he should have explained better his point on the matter of that monstrous traffic gridlock. His strong statement on the incompetence of those in government to address the traffic problem in Metro Manila was his expression of anger borne out of the helplessness of the millions of commuters suffering from this daily gridlock.”
“Mayor Rody also fully understands the reactions of many who, at the very least, are displeased and disappointed at this unfortunate and regrettable incident.”
On Monday, towards the end of his rambling, obscenity-filled speech at the Century Park Hotel in Manila after being proclaimed as PDP-Laban standard bearer together with Senator Alan Peter Cayetano as his vice-president, Duterte lashed out at Pope Francis, blaming him for causing traffic jams in Metro Manila when he visited in January.
On Monday night, Duterte also said he would withdraw from the presidential race if Pope Francis was offended by his profanity.
“If the Pope said that he is hurt [by my statements], then I will withdraw tomorrow,” Duterte said in an interview with TV5.
In an ambush interview after his expletive-laced speech at the Century Park Hotel, Duterte said Pope Francis wouldn’t take issue with his comments.
“The Pope is compassionate. He would understand me. If you have to pee inside a car, would you be happy with that?” Duterte added, referring to the time he was stuck in traffic.
Presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda attacked Duterte for cursing the Pope, posting on Twitter: “Mayor Duterte, you can say all you want about politicians but you don’t curse my Pope Francis! #defendthepope”.
In the Senate, Cayetano again defended Duterte while Senate Minority Leader Juan Ponce Enrile likened him to tycoon Donald Trump, who is seeking the presidency in the United States.
Cayetano said Duterte’s anger and frustration were actually directed at government failures, not at the head of the Catholic Church.
“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.
Cayetano insisted Duterte cursed only the traffic and not Pope Francis.
“It is unfortunate that the mayor’s statements were grossly taken out of context. Mayor Duterte deeply respects religious beliefs and the Filipino’s 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,” Cayetano added.
Cayetano said he understands that Catholic bishops were angered by Duterte’s speech.
“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.
Enrile said Duterte is skilled in politics.
“I think he says- I am not pretending. I’m telling you what I a. You take me for what I am. Now if you will elect me, they you know the kind of person I am.”
He compared him to Trump, who is rating well despite or because he attacks and offends people.
But he added he was unsure if the strategy would work well for Duterte.
“Well, he’s going to the extreme situation to test the smoothness or roughness of Philippine society. Normally people who aspire for high office would be very prudent in their statements. They are guarded. But you have a man who’s telling who he is,” Enrile said.
“You’re very curious about the man so that’s a part of strategy. Maybe, he’s doing it for people to talk about him. Everybody is now curious—some are angry, some are taken aback but everybody’s getting an interest about him,” he added.
In his remarks to reporters, Duterte said it took him seven years to finish high school after being expelled from the Ateneo de Davao University for misconduct. He was then sent by his father to a distant school in Digos City, the Holy Cross of Digos, where he eventually finished his secondary education.
Duterte lashed out at the Catholic Church for being “all-sacred” despite its sins.
“I said, look at you priests and bishops… This religion is not so sacred,” he added.
Duterte challenged the CBCP to seek his withdrawal so that the Church’s “darkest secrets will be revealed.”
“File for my withdrawal and I will withdraw. Then I will challenge you to a debate and reveal your dark secrets,” Duterte said.
Ateneo de Davao University said that they could not comment on Duterte’s allegations as it was not familiar with his past, and he was not a graduate of the university. – With Macon Ramos-Araneta and Sandy Araneta
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