MANILA- Activist "running priest" Robert Reyes called on Filipino prelates on Thursday to answer President Rodrigo Duterte after the latter said bishops are better off dead.
Duterte, in a speech on Wednesday, said bishops have no use. He has recently stepped up his verbal attacks against Catholic prelates, especially against Caloocan Bishop Pablo David, one of his most ardent critics in the Catholic Church.
“Itong mga obispo ninyo, patayin ninyo. Walang silbi iyang mga gagong iyan. (Kill your bishops. They have no use.) All they do is criticize,” Duterte said in a speech in Malacañang.
Reyes appealed specifically to Manila Archbishop Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle.
“Puwede magsalita na kayo Cardinal Tagle? (Can you speak up Cardinal Tagle?) Let us help one another, not another priest killed," he told ABS-CBN News in an interview.
Four priests were killed from December 2017 to June 2018, prompting an opposition senator to call for a probe on whether members of the clergy are being targeted by the administration.
Reyes also appealed to the President to be more mindful of his words since whatever the chief executive says "become policy."
“Kung ikaw ama, 'wag kang mag-mura, lalong-lalo na huwag mo sabihing 'patayin na lang',” he said.
(If you are a father, you shouldn't curse, especially say 'just kill.')
“Bakit ka walang katakot-takot? Nawala na ba ang Diyos sa buhay mo? Diyos na ba ang tingin mo sa sarili mo?” he added.
(Why do you have no fear? Has God left your life? Do you see yourself as a god?)
Malacañang on Thursday downplayed Duterte’s remark, saying the president was just employing “hyperbole” when he said that bishops should be killed for being “useless.”
“That’s only hyperbole on the part of the President… He is making these statements for dramatic effect,” Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo said in a Palace press briefing.
Panelo said the President merely wants his critics in the Catholic Church to “stop criticizing, do something good.”
With the start of the Christmas season, Reyes said Duterte should change his mindset with regards to his crackdown on illegal drugs and focus on helping wounded communities.
"Sana iba naman po, baguhin ang pananaw niyo. Hindi war on drugs…Help wounded communities. Hindi kill, kill, kill,” he said.
(I hope you change your view and instead of the war on drugs, help wounded communities and not just kill, kill, kill.)
-report from Kristine Sabillo, ABS-CBN News