“SOME priests are no better than me,” President Rodrigo Duterte said as he denied persecuting priests amid a spate of killings of members of the clergy.
Critics claim Duterte’s tirades against priests and the Catholic Church had emboldened the killers of three Catholic priests slain in the last six months.
“Sabi ng nabasa ko, ‘Stop persecuting priests.’ Wala naman akong sinabi,” Duterte said in in a speech in Malacañang.
Public outrage is growing over the spate of killings of Catholic priests in the last six months.
The latest victim was Fr. Richmond Nilo, who was about to begin Mass in a church in Zaragoza, Nueva Ecija on Sunday night when unidentified gunmen shot him dead.
In April 2018, Rev. Fr. Mark Anthony Ventura was also shot dead by an unidentified gunman after celebrating Mass in Gattaran, Cagayan.
Duterte earlier said that Ventura’s supposed affairs could be the reason behind his killing, an allegation condemned by priests and prelates who knew the Cagayan priest.
In his speech the President brought up the matter again. He said it seemed he was being forced by his critics to resurrect the issue because of their criticisms against him.
“Kung ikaw pari, kabitin mo ang asawa ng sundalo, kabitin mo ang asawa ng mayor, mamamatay ka talaga,” Duterte said.
“Alam mo yung pari is no better than me. Iyung mga pari dyan, tig-dalawang asawa,” he added.
Duterte said he actually “suppressed” the issue involving Ventura because it would not look good for the Catholic Church.
“If these guys keep on shouting there, ilalabas ko (I will make this public),” he said.
The President accused the Catholic hierarchy of pretending to be “saints” despite their transgressions and labeling the police and soldiers as demons.
Duterte has been vocal about his grievances against the Catholic leadership in the Philippines, some of whom have been vocal critics of his war on drugs.