This remark did not sit well with some senators from both sides of the political fence.
Senate President Pro-Tempore Ralph Recto said: "May God bless his heart."
Senator Sherwin Gatchalian expressed concern that Duterte's statement may contradict Christian values being taught to children.
"Without pinpointing any religion, ang masasabi ko lang my mother is a pastor, hindi namin maisip na magsabi ng masama patungkol sa ating Panginoon. Ang aking agam-agam diyan, maraming batang Kristiyano na tinuturuan natin na respetuhin ang Panginoon," Gatchalian said on Monday, June 25.
(Without pinpointing any religion, all I can say about the issue is that my mother is a pastor. We dare not think of saying anything negative about our God. My concern there is that there are many young Christians we are teaching to respect God.)
Senator Joel Villanueva, in a statement, noted that "many individuals were offended" by Duterte's remark, as "the Filipino nation is God-believing and God-honoring."
Villanueva is the son of Brother Eddie Villanueva, founder of the Jesus Is Lord (JIL) Church. The senator added: "All my life I was taught to never put God's name in vain.... I stand firm that my God is real and He is alive. We pray for the President's enlightenment. We should condemn bigotry and respect all faith and religion."
Opposition senators Risa Hontiveros and Antonio Trillanes IV also slammed the President, saying his remarks are divisive and arrogant.
Trillanes said the tirade against God shows how "evil" Duterte is, which is supposedly reflected in his policies, such as the bloody anti-drug campaign.
"It is the height of arrogance of power not only to disrespect and spit on an individual's faith, but also to act as though he is a god. Worse, Duterte's statements betray the nature of his evil mind and is very much consistent with the deceitfulness, heartlessness, and ruthlessness of his policies. It should be clear now to everyone that Duterte is one evil man," Trillanes said.
Hontiveros added that Duterte is only distracting the nation from pertinent issues with his "irrational ramblings."
"As a woman of faith myself, I understand the anger of many among us. President Duterte's latest comment does nothing to bring the Filipino people together. It only divides us even further. However, I appeal to the public to remain vigilant and not lose sight of the important issues that need addressing. Let us not allow President Duterte to distract us with his irrational stream-of-consciousness ramblings," Hontiveros said.
Earlier, Senator Panfilo Lacson criticized Duterte for his remark. He noted how he has often sided with the President in the past, even thinking of Duterte as "God's gift” to the country. But after the remark, Lacson said he is definitely on God's side.
"Between him and my God to whom I pray every single day and with whom I've found solace and comfort in all my difficult times, I don't even have to think of my choice. May my God forgive him and make him atone for all his sins," Lacson said on Sunday, June 24.
After public outrage, Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque defended Duterte and said the remark ought to be seen as an expression of a personal belief.
Asked if he thinks Duterte should be more careful with his words as Chief Executive, Roque said Filipinos should just accept that the President speaks in such a manner.
Chief Presidential Legal Counsel Salvador Panelo, meanwhile, claimed that Duterte did not call God "stupid." He said the President was merely questioning the theory of creation in the Bible.
Camille Elemia is Rappler's lead reporter for media, disinformation issues, and democracy. She won an ILO award in 2017. She received the prestigious Fulbright-Hubert Humphrey fellowship in 2019, allowing her to further study media and politics in the US. Email email@example.com