MANILA - Malacañang on Friday defended President Rodrigo Duterte's latest attack against Catholic Church leaders, saying that if clergymen could unleash tirades on the President, he should be able to do the same.
Duterte has claimed that a priest supposedly wished for his death, which is why he is railing against members of the clergy.
"If the men of the cloth can unleash tirades against the President then they should be able to receive some lashes from him to return the favor," presidential spokesperson Salvador Panelo said in a statement.
Panelo claimed Duterte was only using figure of speech when he ordered "tambays" or bystanders to kill or steal from rich bishops.
"His use of figures of speech, as we have repeatedly emphasized, is his style in articulating and dramatizing a point," he said.
"In the case instant, he wishes to stress the failure of some bishops to empathize with the masses as they live comfortably in their rectories while the latter endures the vestiges of poverty."
Duterte, however, earlier ordered the police to round up bystanders, saying they are potential criminals.
Panelo added that Duterte respects Christianity, citing his recent signing of a law making National Bible Day a special working holiday, and his message for the celebration of the Black Nazarene's Traslacion.
"Given his view on the importance of religion and even including himself as a believer in the Divine and the Black Nazarene, it becomes the duty of the President to subject some of its leaders on their hypocritical practices, especially so when some of them commenced the adverse narratives against him using the pulpit and even wishing the President’s demise," he said.