Palace: Don't take Duterte's tirades vs Church seriously
PRESIDENT Rodrigo Duterte's pronouncement about harming the clergy should be taken lightly, as it was a mere "joke" directed against some members of the Catholic Church "violat[ing] their own vows," Malacañang said on Tuesday, February 26.
Speaking to Palace reporters, Presidential Spokesperson Savador Panelo said Duterte's relentless tirades with "hyperbole" against the prelates should not be deemed as an "encouragement" to cause harm to the Catholic Church leaders.
Panelo also blamed Duterte's critics for making it appear that the President was "serious" when truth is, he was merely cracking a "joke."
"Joke lang 'yun (It's just a joke). It's just a hyperbole," the Palace official said, when asked if the President's previous call to harm the clergy was just a "joke."
"If it's a hyperbole, then it's not an encouragement. It is only the opposition, the critics who make it so. That is precisely why they should be blamed for that, not him," he added.
Panelo made the statement a day after Duterte warned that he would be an "enemy" of anyone who would attempt to hurt members of the Catholic Church.
In a speech delivered Monday, February 25, Duterte took back his earlier statement to "rob and kill" moneyed bishops, following the "death threats" allegedly received by Catholic priests.
"'Pag ginawa mo yan sa kanila, ako mismo ang kalaban mo at ako ang hihirit sa'yo, kasi ginawa mo yan para siraan ako (If you do that, I'll be your enemy and I'll go after you because you're doing that to vilify me)," he said in an event in Pasay City.
Duterte's latest warning came even after he repeatedly encouraged street idlers to "kill" bishops he dubbed as "useless" and "stupid."
Despite this, Panelo noted that Duterte was "serious" when he cautioned the public to refrain from harming the clergy.
"Again, he was not threatening anyone. I will repeat what he said. When he makes comments, he creates certain situations to make people laugh or to stress a message. But he doesn't threat people. He only threats criminals. Only the criminals, the corrupt, the evildoers, the scoundrels, the dregs of society, not the priest, not the bishops, not anyone," he said.
"This one, he (Duterte) says, 'Do not harm them kung hindi may problema kayo sa akin (if you do not want to have a problem with me).' Iyan ang (That's a) serious talk. He's talking as President enforcing the law," Panelo added.
Duterte has persistently lambasted the Catholic Church, which is critical of his administration.
The President had tried to mend ties with the Catholic Church when he created on June 25 a four-man panel, which is tasked to hold a dialogue with various religious groups.
However, Duterte's four-man committee seemed to have failed to reconcile with the leaders of the Catholic Church.
Panelo nevertheless said the President remains open to possible dialogue with the church leaders.
"First, it's not a problem. Number two, he's always open. Matagal na niyang sinasabi iyan (He's been saying that)," he said, when pressed if Duterte has intention to reach out to the Catholic Church.