MANILA, Philippines–The latest remark of President Rodrigo Duterte to “kill” bishops was just a “hyperbole” for dramatic effect, Malacañang said Thursday.
“I think that’s only a hyperbole on the part of the President. We should be getting used to this President. He is making these statements for dramatic effect,” Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo said in a Palace briefing.
In a speech on Wednesday, Duterte intensified his verbal attacks against Catholic bishops and urged the public to kill them.
“Itong mga obispo ninyo, patayin ninyo. Walang silbi iyang mga gagong iyan. All they do is criticize,” the President said.
Sought for comment, Panelo explained Duterte did not literally mean to kill the bishops.
“He actually means stop criticizing and do some good for this country. Help us,” he said.
“The President, just like any ordinary human being, is upset when the good things that he does for this country are not even appreciated by people who are supposed to support, like the Church,” he added.
The Palace official continued, saying he agreed with his wife who said Duterte only meant “kill them with kindness.”
He said Duterte “has basis” when he said that Catholic Church is “the most hypocritical institution.”
“He has been a victim of harassment, sexual harassment when he was a young boy, remember? He keeps on telling us that. And again that is a basis. When priests give up the teaching of God, and yet they do the opposite. So that makes them hypocritical. But of course, he refers to certain members of the Church,” he said.
Panelo said the Palace is not worried that the latest remark of the President would encourage more killings.
“No, I don’t think so. Majority of Filipinos have, I think, been used to this President,” he said.
Asked what would convince the President to stop the attacks against the Church, Panelo said, “It’s not a matter of convincing. Perhaps it’s in his psyche.”
“It is in his mind, there are certain things he doesn’t approve of, and he expresses his thoughts to us. Perhaps in a manner that some of us don’t want but that is his style. As correctly pointed out by Senator [Panfilo] Lacson, when we voted him into office, his style was factored in. So we have to live with that,” he said.
Even with Duterte’s “kill” remark against bishops, Panelo said the President was not threatening.
“Not really. What he’s saying is stop criticizing, do something good. You can’t find anything good in my doing and yet the Pope is saying all countries should fight drug addiction, drug syndicates, so even the Pope is supporting him,” he said.
“[H]e (Duterte) has been criticized, and the President is saying that, instead of criticizing, or you can even criticize, but at the same time you give us constructive suggestions,” he added.
In another speech on Wednesday, Duterte said almost 90 percent of Catholic priests are homosexuals.
“No offense intended. I have so many relatives who are gay. I have two brothers-in-law who are gay. But most of the priests there are homosexuals, almost 90 percent of you. So do not postulate on my morality,” he said.
Asked about the President’s basis for his remarks, Panelo said he would ask the chief executive.
“He tells us that there have been complaints against priests who are gays. In fact, he points to a certain internet information that we can look it up, who these priests have been charged with molestations,” he said.
“I’ll ask him this afternoon and I’ll tell you right after,” he added. /jpv
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