Duterte trading barbs with bishop months after repairing ties with church

November 27, 2018 - 3:08 PM
President Rodrigo Duterte
President Rodrigo Duterte attends a wedding in Davao City in 2016. (Interaksyon file photo)

President Rodrigo Duterte is engaged in a brewing word war with Caloocan Bishop Pablo Virgilio David, months after a self-imposed moratorium on statements against the church.

The president said during a speech for the opening of a water project in Davao that he was beginning to suspect that David was using illegal drugs.

“I am puzzled as to why you always go out at night. I suspect, son of a b****, you are into illegal drugs,” Duterte said.

Duterte also warned that he would punish the bishop should the latter be found guilty of using narcotics.

“Bishop, ask someone to buy drugs for you. I will decapitate you,” he added.

Duterte cautioned those in the audience against attending church due to the clergy’s “archaic” teachings, telling them to “build a chapel in your own house and pray there.”

David said in response to Duterte’s accusations that he does not use drugs, whether legal or illegal.

“Into drugs? No sir, I’m not into drugs of any sort, whether legal or illegal. Never been. I only help in rehabilitating people addicted to drugs,” David said in a statement released on social media.

In a previous speech, Duterte accused David, a vocal critic of the administration’s war on drugs, of stealing from church donations.

David answered Duterte’s accusation by saying that Duterte had mistaken him for someone else and that the president was “sick.”

“Please remember, Jesus taught us to be merciful when dealing with sick people. I think it should be obvious to people by now that our country is being led by a very sick man. We pray for him,” David said in response to the accusations.

Some critics of Duterte have raised concerns over the president’s recent statements against David and the Catholic Church.

History of bad blood with Catholic church

Duterte has been known for controversial statements against the Catholic Church, the dominant religion in the Philippines.

In June 2018, he drew flak for remarking “Who is this stupid God?” while discussing the Bible’s creation story during his speech.

Though he later qualified his statements as a critique of mainstream interpretation of the Old Testament God in the Bible, he committed to improving relations with the Catholic Church.

Among the steps he took were taking on a self-imposed moratorium on tirades against the Church and forming a committee with church leaders from various sects.

He later publicly apologized to the creator and met with a number of Catholic Church leaders.

The moratorium however did not last long as Duterte lashed out once more in August 2018 against the Catholic Church, calling it “the most hypocritical institution in the Philippines.”

Duterte clarified just after his election in May 2016 that he believed in God but not in organized religion, despite being raised as a Catholic.

“For the record, I believe in God but I do not believe in religion, period,” he said in a television interview that month.

In June 2018, he said that he stopped considering himself as a Catholic after enduring sexual abuse from a Catholic priest when he was still studying at the Ateneo de Davao University.