MANILA - President Rodrigo Duterte on Monday appealed to the public not to harm leaders of the Catholic Church, despite repeatedly urging drug addicts and criminals to maul, kill and steal from moneyed bishops.
This comes after Manila Archbishop Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle informed him that several bishops are now receiving death threats, following the President’s tirades against supposed corruption in the Catholic Church.
Tagle’s text message, sent to his former aide Bong Go, was read by the President during his speech to barangay officials in Pasay.
"Good day po. Greetings from Rome. I was informed that Bishop David and some priests got death threats from someone claiming to be working for the President’s family. Just to let you know baka may naninira. Thanks,” Duterte said, quoting the cardinal’s message.
Duterte was quick to deny that the threats were coming from him, as he clarified that his tiff with Catholic leaders was merely personal on his part.
“Ang sagot ko ganito, 'yang aming away ko sa Katoliko, amin lang yan, personal. Kayong mga adik 'wag ninyong totohanin yung pukpukin yung bishop at kardinal, hindi sila kasali sa political ruckus,” Duterte said in his speech at the 1st National Assembly Liga ng mga Barangay sa Pilipinas in Pasay.
“Ako, I was just responding, sinagot ko lang yung sabi ng pari na mamatay na ako. Pero 'wag niyo talaga patayin mga obispo, at pari, it is not allowed,” he continued, adding that his appeal also applies to Muslim religious leaders.
“Pag ginawa mo 'yan, ako mismo kalaban mo, kasi ginawa mo yan para siraan ako. Ano makuha ko, bakit ko patayin ang pari? Mas marami pang mabyuda, malay mo, tatlo girlfriend ng gagong yan,” Duterte said.
Minutes prior to this appeal, however, Duterte in the same speech did encourage violence against Catholic leaders by telling addicts looking for drug money to prey on bishops on the street.
Tense exchanges between Duterte and some prelates have continued despite a July 2018 meeting between the President and his fellow Davaoeño, Archbishop Romulo Valles, president of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines.
Panelo said the President remains open to talks with the Catholic church hierarchy, after Senate President Vicente Sotto III said he was willing to mediate between the two sides.