“HINDI ko kayang magpatay ng pari. I respect the Church,” President Rodrigo Duterte said as he refuted allegations that his government has been inciting violence on priests, who he has roundly criticized for alleged misdeeds.
Duterte, in a rare conciliatory tone towards the Catholic church, said he had not adopted a policy of hatred against members of the clergy.
“Wala kaming policy na galit kami sa pari. Nothing of that sort. As a matter of fact nirerespeto ko ‘yung Simbahan. Ang akin lang mahinto lang itong a few bishops na medyo ‘yung sabi na nili-link nila ang gobyerno [to the killings of priests],” the President told a gathering of the Philippine Councilors League in Iloilo City.
“Sa totoo lang, hindi ko kayang magpatay ng pari, pati babae, bata,” he added.
Critics said Duterte’s harsh words directed at priests may have emboldened the killers of clergymen, three of them gunned down in the last six months.
Duterte denied persecuting priests and did not discount the possibility that some of them were killed for their advocacy.
The President also repeated his remark that he did not release details of the death of Fr. Mark Ventura because it would not look good for the Catholic Church.
Duterte earlier presented to the public a matrix to show that Ventura, an anti-mining advocate, could have been killed because of his alleged illicit affairs with women.