Panelo: Duterte only 'puts religion to test' when saying Trinity is 'silly'
MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – Malacañang on Wednesday, January 2, denied that President Rodrigo Duterte mocked the Christian belief, and said that he was only "putting it to a test."
In a statement Wednesday, Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo downplayed Duterte's remarks and said that believers "should not be offended." Instead, treat it as a "process to strengthen their faith," he said.
"The latest controversial remarks of President Rodrigo Roa Duterte on the Church is his way of shaking long held religious tenets and beliefs that instead of moulding them into being righteous individuals make them cling to religion as an opium," Panelo said,
"The President puts to a test the validity of the religious rituals bordering to fanaticism as against the practice of genuine spirituality as taught by the different personifications of one God," he added.
In a December 29 speech, the President mocked the Christian doctrine of the Holy Trinity and called it "silly." The Holy Trinity – which believes that there is only God who is the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit – is a fundamental belief in Christianity.
Duterte in the same speech mocked Jesus Christ for being "unimpressive," for allowing himself to be nailed on the cross.
In defense of the President, Panelo said that Duterte only intended to "initiate an intellectual discussion" for the "faithful's enlightenment and spiritual awakening."
"His intention being to initiate an intellectual discussion for the faithfuls’ enlightenment and spiritual awakening which could lead them to tread the path of uprightness so necessary in the moral regeneration of a nation so abundant with religiosity but wanting in spirituality," Panelo said.
He added that the President's style in his speeches was "creative" in a sense that these were uncommon and yet "effective" in conveying his message.
'Anti-Christ call God stupid'
On Monday, December 31, Lingayen-Dagupan Archbishop Socrates Villegas wrote an open letter to his godson for the New Year.
"You might not be able to understand God always. Our minds are too limited. Do not force the infinite God to fit into our limited minds. They who call God stupid are anti-Christ," Villegas said.
The Lingayen Archibishop asked his godson to pray for those people and to respect them as elders "but not to follow their bad example."
Villegas added that he should not use foul words "and avoid imitating those who use dirty words" as they are "anti-God." (READ: A foul-mouthed 2016: The year in Duterte's curses)
The President previously "joked" that bishops should be “killed” for supposedly "doing nothing" but criticizing his administration for the bloody war against drugs that has killed thousands.
Ultimately, Villegas asked the young boy to "respect the Pope and his fellow priests and bishops," for the opposite in doing so is the work of anti-Christs, he added.
"Respect the Pope and my fellow priests and bishops because we are signs of God’s love for you. We are not spotless like angels but in our weaknesses, God still uses us for His mission," Villegas said.
"Walang silbi? (No use?) Yes we are. But if we are able to do anything good at all, all is because of God's mercy. In mocking priests and bishops, you do what anti-Christs do. Be a loyal son of the Catholic Church," he said. – Rappler.com