Bishop on Duterte tirades: 'Sick doctor still cures others'

MANILA, Philippines – Lipa Archbishop Ramon Arguelles defended his fellow priests and bishops after President Rodrigo Duterte said they lack the moral ascendancy to criticize him because of their own misdeeds. 

"Even a sick doctor must still try to cure ailments of others and, of course, his too," Arguelles said in an interview quoted by the news service of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) on Friday, January 20.

The archbishop explained: "Churchmen are not perfect. Nevertheless, they are supposed to proclaim what is right and proper even if they themselves fall short of what they teach."

"The fault of some should not be blamed on all," he added.

Arguelles made these remarks after Duterte on Thursday, January 19, told Catholic leaders: "If you cannot mend ways, if you do not even give justice to the small boys you have molested in the past, you have no moral ascendancy to lecture on us all."

Arguelles, for his part, made an appeal to clergymen who have committed serious wrongdoings.

"Bishops and priests who hide serious misdeeds are harming the Church by their infidelities. If anyone has concrete evidence of misdeeds, the authorities better know it and clean the ranks," the archbishop said. 

Arguelles was among the bishops who spoke at the recently concluded World Apostolic Congress on Mercy (WACOM).

WACOM, a gathering of up to 5,000 devotees of the Divine Mercy, tackled various issues involving mercy.

One of these issues is Duterte's war on drugs that has killed at least 6,700 people – a cause of concern for bishops who spoke at WACOM. (READ: Cardinal Quevedo on killings: 'We do not practice our faith')

Another bishop irks Duterte 

During WACOM, Novaliches Bishop Emeritus Teodoro Bacani was one of those who scored Duterte's war on drugs.

In particular, Bacani criticized the Philippine National Police (PNP) and its anti-drug campaign Oplan TokHang as a "bringer of death."

In an interview with dzMM, Presidential Spokesman Ernesto Abella said it was Bacani's comment in WACOM that prompted Duterte to issue his recent tirades. 

Abella said: "I traced back the root of this recent response of the President, and apparently, it was triggered by a comment by Bishop Bacani on January 18 when he criticized the PNP and he denounced the anti-drug campaign as a bringer of death."

Bacani, 77, is the spiritual adviser of the Catholic charismatic group El Shaddai.

He is one of the most prominent bishops of the Catholic Church, having served as Manila auxiliary bishop and chairman of the CBCP committee on public affairs, among others.

He was one of the bishops mentioned in Altar of Secrets, written by the late Rappler investigative reporter Aries Rufo.

Duterte cited Altar of Secrets in his tirades against the Catholic Church on Thursday. 

In this book, Rufo recounted that Bacani "admitted to committing 'inappropriate advances ' to his secretary." Bacani resigned from his post as Novaliches bishop because of this controversy. –

Paterno R. Esmaquel II

Paterno R. Esmaquel II is a senior reporter leading Rappler’s coverage of religion and foreign affairs. He finished MA Journalism in Ateneo and MSc Asian Studies (Religions in Plural Societies) at RSIS, Singapore. For story ideas or feedback, email him at