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CBCP slams Duterte for cursing Pope Francis

MANILA, Philippines – The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) on Tuesday, December 1, slammed Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte for cursing Pope Francis in a speech a day earlier. 

In a rare and strongly worded statement titled “Mayor Duterte?”, the CBCP also described crimes such as murder and adultery as part of “a great scourge of Philippine politics.”

CBCP president Lingayen-Dagupan Archbishop Socrates Villegas said: “Vulgarity is corruption. When we find vulgarity funny, we have really become beastly and barbaric as a people.”

“When a revered and loved and admired man like Pope Francis is cursed by a political candidate and the audience laugh, I can only bow my head and grieve in great shame. My countrymen have gone to the dregs,” Villegas said.

This comes after Duterte on Monday cursed Francis for the heavy traffic triggered by January’s papal visit. Duterte said in a speech: “Gusto kong tawagan:Pope, putang ina ka, umuwi ka na. ‘Wag ka nang magbisita dito.’” (Pope, you son of a bitch, go home. Don’t visit here anymore.)

Duterte is one of the leading candidates for the Philippine presidency in 2016.

Sought for clarification, Villegas told Rappler on Tuesday morning that he made the statement “as CBCP president.” This means he was representing the CBCP as a whole, he said. 

'Great scourge of Philippine politics'

This statement is significant because the CBCP rarely issues statements against specific public officials. 

One of the times the CBCP did was on February 13, 1986, when it denounced the “unparallelled” fraud in the Philippines’ 1986 snap elections that handed the presidency to dictator Ferdinand Marcos. The statement didn’t explicitly name Marcos but, alluding to him, said a government “that assumes or retains power through fraudulent means has no moral basis.”

In a way, Villegas' statement also follows historical patterns. After all, Duterte reminds the public of two figures ousted by movements led by the Philippine Catholic Church.

The first to be ousted was dictator Ferdinand Marcos, who was toppled by the peaceful People Power Revolution in 1986. Marcos was accused of committing human rights abuses, the same criticism thrown against Duterte. (READ: Duterte's 'benevolent' dictatorship: No such thing!)

The second was actor-turned-politician Joseph Estrada, who was removed from office and later convicted for stealing public funds. Like Duterte, Estrada drew flak for womanizing.

In his statement against Duterte on Tuesday, Villegas explained that corruption goes beyond its “usual face,” which is stealing public funds. “Corruption, like a monster, is a devil with many faces.”

The archbishop added, “Corruption is indeed a great scourge of Philippine politics.”

'Killing people is corruption'

Without directly accusing Duterte of anything, Villegas then referred to two things associated with Duterte – murder and adultery.

On murder, Duterte said in a recent interview with Rappler’s Maria Ressa: “When I said I’ll stop criminality, I’ll stop criminality. And if I have to kill you, I’ll kill you. Personally.” (READ: Duterte, his 6 contradictions, and planned dictatorship)

On adultery, Duterte earlier admitted he is a womanizer

Villegas said: “Killing people is corruption. Killing is a crime and a sin whether it is done by criminals or public officials no matter what the intention.”

“Adultery is corruption. It makes married love cheap and uses people for pleasure.  Adultery corrupts the family; it destroys children and victimizes the weak,” he added.

“What the world desperately needs now is leadership by example,” Villegas said.

He said: “Is this the leadership by example that Mayor Duterte excites in us? Is this the leadership by example that makes a public official deserving of the title ‘Honorable’?”

Villegas’ statement on Tuesday – the start of his second term as CBCP president – is similar to the one issued by his mentor, the late Manila Archbishop Jaime Cardinal Sin, in November 2000.

Back then, Sin joined former president Corazon Aquino in urging then president Joseph Estrada to quit. 

Quoted by The Philippine Star, Sin denounced Estrada in November 2000: “His immoral life, high-stakes gambling, his women and his mistresses, his drinking sessions, his association with friends of doubtful character, have worsened through the past two years. He has become complacent.” 

The late cardinal said, “The presidency has become an occasion of sin for him.” – Rappler.com

Paterno R. 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 pat.esmaquel@rappler.com.

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