MANILA - The chief of the Philippine National Police fired back at the Church for criticizing the government's war on drugs, saying priests, like authorities, are not perfect.
Director General Ronald dela Rosa took a page from his boss, President Rodrigo Duterte, who had similarly parried criticism over the hundreds of deaths linked to the anti-narcotics campaign.
"'Pag sinasabi natin iyung PNP is hindi perfect, mayroong mga sindikatong pulis -- bakit, masabi mo ba iyung Church, iyung mga pari mismo, they are perfect? Wala silang ginagawang kalokohan?," he said at a press briefing at Camp Crame.
(When we say that the PNP is not perfect, that there are corrupt policemen -- can you say the Church, the priests themselves are perfect, that they are not doing anything wrong?)
"Please tell them, I can communicate with God without passing through them, iyung mga pari at bishops na iyan (those priests and bishops)," Dela Rosa said.
In the same way that not all priests are bad, Dela Rosa said the police should be spared from sweeping conclusions.
Catholic Bishops on Saturday raised alarm over a "reign of terror" as Duterte delivers on his campaign promise to restore peace and order by defeating illegal drug rings.
The pastoral letter came less than a week after Duterte suspended all police operations in the drug crackdown due to what he said was deep-rooted corruption in the force.
He has put an anti-drugs agency in charge of the campaign and says he wants the military to play a supportive role.
Nearly 80 percent of the Philippines' 100 million people are Catholic and, unlike in many other countries where the faith has waned, the majority still practice with enthusiasm. While that support has historically given the Church significant political and social clout, it has been hesitant to criticize the blunt-spoken president's war on drugs.
Some clergymen have said they were uncertain how to take a stand against the killings given the popular support for Duterte's campaign. Some said challenging him could be fraught with danger.
Duterte has routinely attacked the Church. He cursed at the Pope for causing traffic snarl-ups during his 2015 visit, and as recently as this week called for a "showdown" with priests whom he has accused of having wives, engaging in homosexual acts, misusing state funds and molesting children. -- With Reuters