Speaking about Duterte's attacks on the Church, the auxiliary bishop of Manila is dismayed by “so much bullying and ‘gutter-talk’,” which have “polluted our public discourse". In his view, “’divide and rule’ leadership tactics have been used. There is a deliberate strategy to antagonize a certain sector of society.”
Manila (AsiaNews) – Filipino and Christian values should not be eroded by a careless and vulgar language, coming no less from the head of the state, said Mgr Broderick Soncuaco Pabillo (pictured), speaking to AsiaNews.
Without ever mentioning President Rodrigo Duterte by name, the auxiliary bishop of Manila, who is also president of the Commission for the laity of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP), looked at the current difficult situation of Church-state relations in Asia’s most populous Catholic country.
Since the start of his mandate, Duterte has made repeated verbal attacks against local Church leaders because of their criticism of his administration’s handling of such issues as human rights and respect for life. In his latest tirade, the president said the bishops were "useless" and called on the faithful to kill them.
The president's words outraged a large part of the population, not only Catholics but also Protestants. In fact, many groups are “concerned about the verbal attacks and denigrating remarks by government officials towards the Church,” the prelate said.
“[T]hese are not simply words. Priests, pastors, and lay leaders have been martyred. Even more, many Filipinos are bearing the brunt of abuse and violations of human rights under this administration.”
"[S]o much bullying and ‘gutter-talk’ has polluted our public discourse. More than a style of talk, we observed that some Filipino seem to have set aside the importance of truth and have become vulnerable to the sway and glorification of murder, elimination, and domination of the poor, marginalized, and even anyone who critiques or questions those in power.”
“Historically, the job of a president, once he or she is elected to office is to unite the country. I still believe that this should be a primary responsibility. However, it seems that ‘divide and rule’ leadership tactics have been used. There is a deliberate strategy to antagonize a certain sector of society. This is not only in the Philippines, as it can be seen in other countries as well.”
For Mgr Pabillo, threats and attacks by the authorities "affect the entire community. Respect for human life and the dignity of each person is a priority for the Christian believers, and even for Filipinos as such. This was affirmed in our ecumenical gathering. Disrespecting life erodes the fabric of our society and seeks to cheapen that which is a God-given gift. The possible impacts on the country are immense.”
“I am very concerned about the destruction of our moral fiber as a nation. If we do not speak out people might think that killing, slandering, swearing, lies are now accepted moral norms. This moral damage will have long term effect on our young people.”
"Seeking to demean bishops is a ‘next ripple’ of the great harm that is being exacted on the poor. When you whip up support by telling people to kill, kill, kill, you would not start with the bishops. First, you say it is okay to kill drug-dealers, then addicts, then indigenous peoples, purse-snatchers, those who loiter around, farmers, human rights defenders and other critics…”
“[T]elling people to kill bishops is just a next ripple of a killing construct of leadership that is obviously bad for the country. This is surely affecting economic and political conduct in the country because it attacks cherished values.”
"Our loyalty to God stands out before our loyalty to any political party or any leader. Our moral stance should be clear and not be compromised.
“Speaking against and insulting the Christian faith is a breach to the principle of the separation of state and Church and the president is himself doing this. He has absolutely no authority,” and “very little knowledge, on Christian doctrine and practices.”
Mgr Pabillo ended the interview by addressing a message to Duterte’s supporters, who, despite everything, are still numerous.
"We hope that they will understand that we are not picking a fight with them. We invite them – if they are willing -- to soberly assess again: what is the truth?
“For peace and justice to prevail in our country, we will need to be able to listen to those who are suffering and have been hurt in our current context. We invite them join us, as we embrace our values of paggalang (courtesy and respect) and pagmamalasakit (compassion).” (PF)