BENGUET, Philippines – Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque again took the cudgels for President Duterte when he said the President was just joking when he belittled the Church in Loacan barangay in Itogon.
It was in Laoag when Duterte said: "There is an evolving story sa Itogon, Barangay Ucab... 43 persons doon, nag-collapse 'yung church... Kaya nga ito eh, alam mo Sir sa totoo lang, kung pinalitan niyo 'yung pari diyan, 'di magbagsak 'yan.”
(There is an evolving story in Itogon, Barangay Ucab... 43 persons were there when the church collapsed.. That's why, you know, truly, if you changed your priest, the church wouldn't have collapsed.)
“Let us not take his word always literally,” Roque said during the media briefing last Monday, September 17.
A bigger question among media was: what church?
Our Lady of Fatima Church is in Tuding barangay – and was unaffected. The other one was the Ucab Parish Church, which was the site of the other major landslide but remained standing after the typhoon.
Affected in the landslide in Sitio Dampingan in Loacan barangay are some bunkhouses. There were no steeples or the clear façade of a typical church.
As it turned out, one of the bunkhouses was converted into a chapel.
There was a bit of confusion on the name of the particular church. From 2010 until 2015, the church there was called the Loacan Community Fundamental Baptist Church.
Mayor Palangdan said that the Church there is known as UCF, which is under the Assembly of God. A rescuer said that UCF stands for United Church Fellowship.
Palangdan said the police repeatedly urged the UCF members to evacuate but they refused. About 11 of them were buried by the landslide.