Archbishop Villegas: Ignorance killing PH ‘softly, slowly’

Paterno Esmaquel II
Archbishop Villegas: Ignorance killing PH ‘softly, slowly’
Ignorance 'has made us a nation that glees in murder' and 'votes for incorrigible liars,' says Archbishop Socrates Villegas as the Philippines marks Holy Week 2019

MANILA, Philippines – One of the Philippines’ most prominent bishops warned that ignorance, which led to the killing of Jesus more than 2,000 years ago, is killing the nation “softly and slowly.”

Lingayen-Dagupan Archbishop Socrates Villegas, a critic of President Rodrigo Duterte, made this warning in a Holy Week reflection he wrote for Rappler. Villegas was reflecting on the first of Jesus’ Seven Last Words – “Father, forgive them; they know not what they do.” (Lk 23:34)

“Two thousand years later, ignorance continues to hurt and kill. Ignorance continues to lurk in the dark alleys preying on weak souls. The ignorant is the hero. The sage is the villain. God is mocked again,” Villegas wrote.

“This ignorance about our dignity as children of God has made us clap at the murder of the poor in the name of the drug war; thumbs up for the 30,000 countrymen killed under the candy-coated term ‘crimes under investigation’ because ‘there are no extrajudicial killings’ here. Ignorance about ourselves is fatal for us and for others,” he said.

He added that Filipinos have “forgotten or ignored” the truth that they belong to God.

“Because we have forgotten or ignored this truth, we giggle when God is called stupid. We chuckle when bishops are ordered killed. We clap when the Church that God founded is called son of a whore whose life span will not go beyond 25 years. Ignorance of to whom we belong has made blasphemy normal, it has made cursing fashionable and killing the remedy to all problems. Ignorance that we belong to God destroys our nation and causes deep harm,” the archbishop said.

‘Fake power of clenched fists’

Villegas added that “ignorance of true happiness has led us to look for happiness in the wrong people, in the wrong places, through wrong means.”

“This ignorance has deceived us of the fake power of clenched fists when the real power is in serving and reaching out with hands open, hands that wash feet and heal hurts. There is no happiness in violence. There is no happiness in murder. The happiness that fake news gives is fake,” he said.

He continued: “This ignorance about where happiness truly comes from has made us a nation that glees in murder, a nation that waltzes with convicted plunderers and votes for incorrigible liars. The ignorance of the Jews killed the Lord; that same ignorance is killing us softly and slowly.”

The archbishop also said “the reign of murder and terror has made us numb as a neighborhood.”

“Ignorance is killing us as it killed our innocent Lord. There is a time for mercy but there will soon be a time for reckoning,” Villegas added.

Villegas is one of the priests most critical of Duterte’s anti-drug campaign, as well as his blasphemous words, calling God stupid and urging the murder of prelates. He is also one of the priests who have received death threats under Duterte’s watch. (READ: Duterte said kill the bishops – and his word became flesh

Retaliating against priests, Duterte has blasted the Catholic Church, including its beliefs. 

On Holy Tuesday, April 16, Duterte resumed his tirades against the Catholic Church, mocking the sacrament of confession as “useless” and questioning the belief in heaven and hell. 

Duterte’s tirades against the Catholic Church have prompted certain quarters to call for a “Catholic vote” against his senatorial candidates in the upcoming elections. The Catholic Church is not keen however on voting as a bloc, as it stresses respect for the conscience of each of its members. (READ: Duterte vs the Church: Do the times call for a Catholic vote?)

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Paterno Esmaquel II

Paterno R. Esmaquel II, news editor of Rappler, specializes in covering religion and foreign affairs. He obtained his MA Journalism degree from Ateneo and later finished MSc Asian Studies (Religions in Plural Societies) at RSIS, Singapore. For story ideas or feedback, email him at