MANILA, Philippines – Two more big Christian groups rebuked President Rodrigo Duterte for calling God stupid, in a rare instance when Christian churches became more vocal about an issue than the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines (CBCP).
One of these Christian groups, the Philippines for Jesus Movement (PJM) led by Brother Eddie Villanueva, admonished Duterte on Wednesday, June 27: "Mr President, you are no simple citizen. You are the President of this land, and your words and statements do affect the whole of the Philippines."
The other group, the 55-year-old National Council of Churches in the Philippines (NCCP), slammed Duterte on Wednesday for the "brazen exercise of power against one's religion."
The NCCP is now chaired by retired Sandiganbayan justice Raoul Victorino.
"The National Council of Churches in the Philippines believes that 'everyone' is entitled to his or her own beliefs and that everyone should be able to profess whatever he or she believes in terms of faith traditions, polity and doctrines," the group said on Wednesday.
"However, using one's prerogatives to attack the faith, beliefs and traditions of another is not only discriminatory and disrespectful but also a brazen exercise of power against one's religion," the NCCP said.
"We respectfully call on the President, as head of this country, to respect the faith statements of other churches," it added.
The group said it stands with other Christian churches and denominations "in deploring the inappropriate language" by Duterte.
"God is God. God's holiness righteousness and sovereignty will prevail," the NCCP said.
Who's with NCCP?
The signatories of the NCCP statement include the following:
The NCCP lists the following as its members:
The group also includes the following as associate members:
Coalition founded by Brother Eddie
The other big Christian group that released a statement on Wednesday, the PJM, describes itself as "a broad coalition of Bible-believing, nation-loving church groups in the country."
Villanueva, founder of the PJM, is the leader of the nearly 40-year-old Jesus Is Lord Church that now has 5 million members in 60 countries.
Villanueva is a high-profile preacher who twice ran for president and once for senator, but lost. He is also the father of administration ally Senator Joel Villanueva.
In an open letter to Duterte on Wednesday, the PJM began by saying it supports Duterte's leadership, "in view of God's Word in Romans 13:1, 'Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God.'"
The group however said, "While we acknowledge that we are your subjects, ultimately, we answer to God and God alone."
The group then referred to Duterte's speech on June 22 at the National Information and Communications Technology Summit in Davao City.
"While we understand that questions on faith do plague even the best of us, human beings – given the vast immensity of God and our limited capacity to understand everything about him – we see it unacceptable that the President, who is the highest official of the land, would speak thus of the One we consider to be the Highest of all," the PJM said.
The PJM then said Duterte's statements were "highly inappropriate and insensitive towards the faith that we, the majority of Filipinos, believe in, hold on to, and uphold."
"In this context, Mr President, the leaders of the different church groups under the PJM ask for a public apology from you – not to us, or any religion. But to publicly apologize to God who – in many instances in the past – you acknowledged you believed in," the PJM said.
The signatories of the PJM letter include the following:
Villanueva, in a television interview on Wednesday, said Duterte violated the Constitution by calling God stupid.
Another signatory of the PJM letter, Balais of the Intercessors for the Philippines, released an earlier statement on behalf of his church group.
PCEC 'immensely offended'
Like the PJM and the NCCP, the Philippine Council of Evangelical Churches (PCEC) said on Tuesday, June 26, that it was "immensely offended" by Duterte's tirades against "the God of the Christian faith."
Founded in 1965, the PCEC said it is now the largest network of Christian "denominations, churches, mission groups, and para-church groups nationwide." It is said to be composed of about 30,000 Evangelical churches in the Philippines.
In contrast, the CBCP as a body has not issued any statement on Duterte's tirades.
The CBCP is now led by Davao Archbishop Romulo Valles. (READ: New CBCP head views self as Duterte's 'friend-sinner')
Instead of tackling Duterte's June 22 rant against a "stupid God," Valles released a CBCP statement against the proposal for priests to carry firearms. Valles signed this statement on June 23, and the CBCP released it to the media on June 25.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.