MANILA, Philippines – Malacañang downplayed President Rodrigo Duterte’s remark on killing bishops critical of his administration, saying it was only “hyperbole” and likely won’t encourage the murders of religious leaders.
“I think that’s only a hyperbole on the part of the President. We should be getting used to this President. He makes certain statements for dramatic effect,” said Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo on Thursday, December 6.
The day before, Duterte had said, “Pero itong mga obispo ninyo, patayin ninyo, walang silbi ‘yang mga gagong ‘yan (But these bishops, kill them, those fools are good for nothing). All they do is criticize.”
Panelo also does not think the President’s remark will encourage persons to kill priests. In the past months, there have been brazen murders of priests.
“No, I do not think so. Majority of the Filipinos have, I think, been used to this President,” said Duterte’s spokesman.
But why the need for statements about killing? Panelo said this was Duterte’s way of expressing frustration over the lack of appreciation from sectors for his policies.
“The President, just like any ordinary human being, is upset when the good things that he does for this country are not even appreciated by people who are supposed to support it, like the Church,” said Panelo.
Intolerance for dissent?
Panelo explained Duterte’s “kill bishops” remark this way: “He actually means, ‘Stop criticizing and do some good for this country. Help us.'”
Yet a few minutes later, when asked by Rappler if this interpretation means Duterte is intolerant of dissent, Panelo denied making such an interpretation.
“That reporter is putting words into my mouth. First, the President is not threatening. He is being criticized. And the President is saying that, instead of criticizing – or you can even criticize but, at the same time, you give us constructive suggestions,” said Panelo.
The kill remark is the latest in another escalating word war between Duterte and Catholic Church leaders.
Five months ago, Duterte had agreed to stop making statements about the Church, an agreement he arrived at during a meeting with his friend, Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines president Archbishop Romulo Valles.
He broke the promise 24 hours later. – Rappler.com