MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – After the outrage of many over President Rodrigo Duterte calling God "stupid," Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said the remark ought to be seen as an expression of a personal belief.
In an interview on Monday, June 25, with GMA-7, Roque said the President was merely being honest about his thoughts on religion and that he has a right to express his beliefs.
"Iyan po ay personal na paninindigan ng Pangulo. Alam ninyo iyong ating kalayaan ng malayang pananampalataya, kasama po iyan, 'yun, sa wala kang paniniwalaan na pananampalataya," said Roque.
(That is the personal belief of the President. You know, our freedom of religion includes the freedom not to believe in any religion.)
"Tingin ko ang ating Pangulo ay merong personal na spirituwalidad, pero nasa sa kanya na iyan at hindi na kinakailangang bigyan ng interpretasyon," added the spokesman.
(I think the President has his own spirituality, but it's up to him and there's no need to interpret it.)
Roque was then asked if he thinks Duterte should be more careful with his words as Chief Executive.
His response was that Filipinos should just accept that the President speaks in such a manner.
"Hindi naman niya itinago iyang ganyang mga lengguwahe noong siya ay tumatakbo.... Tanggapin na ganyan siya, dahil noong humingi siya ng mandato, hindi naman niya itinago iyan," said Roque.
(He never hid that kind of language when he was running.... Accept that he is that way because when he asked for a mandate, he never hid that.)
Roque also said that Duterte's tirade about God must be understood within the context of his ill feeling towards priests brought about by his supposed experience of sexual harassment at the hands of a priest when he was younger.
"This cannot be just forgotten by the Church. They must admit and ask for forgiveness so that all those victims, like President Duterte, can also move on with their lives," said Roque.
Duterte, a Catholic and the leader of a country predominantly of Catholic faith, has devoted part of recent speeches to criticizing and threatening Church leaders and aspects of the religion.
He had cursed God and called God stupid last Friday, June 22, over his annoyance with the Bible's creation story.
"May my God forgive him and make him atone for all his sins," he said on Sunday, June 24. – Rappler.com
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 email@example.com.