Statesmanship, not stand-up comedy

"What arrant nonsense."


It was bound to happen, sooner or later: A member of the political opposition, apart from the militant lawmakers belonging to the Makabayan bloc, has called President Rodrigo Duterte out for his unrelenting attacks on the Catholic Church.

And it’s not surprising at all that it is Senior Deputy Minority Leader and Buhay Rep. Lito Atienza, a staunch pro-life advocate, who has taken up the cudgels for the embattled church.

For Atienza, Duterte’s “incessant” attacks on the clergy are “creating a climate and culture of death.”

“The Church cannot be destroyed. Many have tried but failed... Please do not belittle and insult our priests and bishops and put their lives in danger,” he said in the vernacular. “I believe in my faith and I will continue defending my faith,” he emphasized

“We in Congress must stand and prevent the continuing efforts to destroy the foundations of our Church. What will succeed in the end is still the will of God,” the lawmaker said, adding that Duterte should not focus on the Catholic Church, “which has been dealing with wrongdoing committed by its members.”

The party-list lawmaker said that while he has been supporting Duterte’s flagship campaign against illegal drugs and the increase in the pay of military and police personnel, he has chosen to “speak out against him when he is wrong.”

“I’d rather that the President devoted his time to giving Filipinos a better life and I want him to succeed in that,” Atienza pointed out, saying that Duterte should instead focus on his campaign to stamp out corruption.

It appears that Atienza has already become so fed up with Duterte’s rants against the Church that he feels it is now time to stand up and defend it from baseless accusations. We don’t blame him.

After all, Duterte has already said quite a mouthful against the Church in the past two-and-a-half years. He has called bishops “useless,” and recently urged “tambays” to rob and kill them. He even claimed that 90 percent of Catholic priests are gays. He has also called God “stupid” and cast doubt not only on the creation theory in the Bible but also on the concept of the HolyTrinity.

Malacañang claims that Duterte’s tirades against the Church, “jokes” about rape and sexual harassment and coarse language are meant “to test the limits of civility.” This is arrant nonsense.

Duterte himself has justified profanities and “jokes” as his way of responding to detractors who he claims have been maligning him, including the opposition, human rights groups and women’s rights advocates.

Of late, he has also stirred another controversy with his remark that Commission on Audit  personnel who delay government projects should be kidnapped and tortured. His spokesman said Duterte was joking and was merely expressing his “exasperation and vexation” with stringent rules that hamper government projects. 

We expect the Chief Executive to adhere to a higher standard of decorum than other public servants.

Unfortunately, for the past 30 months, we have been inundated by one profanity after another from the mouth of the Malacañang occupant, leaving us really wondering whether he is capable of statesmanship and even just good manners and right conduct at all.

The reality is that the Duterte presidency has been very divisive, alienating rather than uniting people behind him with his uncouth behavior and blatant disregard for the rule of law and due process in the course of his bloody campaign against illegal drugs.

We believe voters should make their voices heard in the upcoming May 13 midterm polls election for senators, district and party-list representatives as well as various local positions. As this may well be considered a referendum of sorts for the incumbent administration, the poll results would reflect approval of the Duterte administration if its chosen candidates prevail, and disapproval of it if many of those who win are independents or known critics of the president.

It may be difficult, however, to assess the results of the forthcoming political exercise in stark terms, or in black-and-white. On one hand, the latest survey shows that seven out of 10 Filipinos support Duterte’s program and style of governance. But on the other, he has also alienated certain sectors with his slash-and-burn response to criticism.

Hence, we are interested in knowing how the second half of the Duterte administration would play out, given this apparent divergence in how Filipinos view his performance as the highest elected official.

What is clear to us at this point is that Duterte should no longer rule in the old way, that is, with utter distaste for decorum and due process, and instead exercise enlightened leadership that would unite the people. Or is that too much to ask? [email protected]

Topics: Ernesto Hilario , Statesmanship , President Rodrigo Duterte , Catholic Church
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