Duterte says no fight with priests: 'I respect the Church'

MANILA, Philippines – After criticism over his tirades against the Catholic Church amid the recent killings of priests, President Rodrigo Duterte claimed he has no beef with the institution.

"Wala kaming policy na galit kami sa pari. As a matter of fact, rinerespeto ko 'yung Simbahan," he said on Wednesday, June 20, during a Philippine Councilors League event in Iloilo City.

(We don't have a policy that we are angry with priests. As a matter of fact, we respect the Church.)

Yet Duterte has described the Catholic Church as "full of shit" and has hurled curse-laden insults at priests who he accuses of corruption and abuse of power. He once told an audience not to trust priests and instead go "straight to God." He has also joked he would create his own "Iglesia ni Duterte" for those disillusioned by the Catholic Church.

In Iloilo, Duterte repeated his claim that some of the priests who were recently killed had affairs with women. He said this was true of the "new" priest who was just killed, but he did not name this priest.

He again threatened to release a "matrix" showing the alleged affairs of the priests.

Duterte said that while a "few bishops" were linking the recent murders of priests to the government, he himself would never kill a clergyman.

"Sa totoo lang, hindi ko kaya magpatay ng pari (Truth be told, I cannot kill a priest)," said Duterte.

He said that in most cases, priests "were killed for their advocacy."

Three priests have been shot dead in less than 7 months as Duterte wraps up his second year as president. This is compared to 13 Filipino priests killed in 44 years, from Martial Law in 1972 under Ferdinand Marcos to the end of the term of former president Benigno Aquino III.

Lingayen-Dagupan Archbishop Socrates Villegas has called on Duterte to stop his verbal attacks against the Church, saying they embolden violent crimes against priests. Despite this call, the President repeated his threats against the Church. – Rappler.com

Pia Ranada

Pia Ranada covers the Office of the President and Bangsamoro regional issues for Rappler. While helping out with desk duties, she also watches the environment sector and the local government of Quezon City. For tips or story suggestions, you can reach her at pia.ranada@rappler.com.

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