The Filipino president Rodrigo Duterte (elected in 2016 for six years), who served for many years as mayor of Davao (the capital of Mindanao, an island to the south of the archipelago), waged a verbal war on the Catholic hierarchy throughout the first two years of his presidency.
In reaction to attacks from the bishops—due to the president’s habitual and open violations of human rights—Rodrigo Duterte responded by accusing them of corruption.
His remarks against the Church recently reached an unheard-of degree of animosity. He had already been known to claim that the story of Creation was stupid. In Kidapawan, on the island of Mindanao, before a mostly Muslim audience, he also claimed that there is only one God, Allah, that God cannot be divided into three parts, that it was pathetic on the part of Jesus Christ to have predicted that He would be crucified (a strong man would have conquered his enemies); he once again gave his “sensual” version of the confession of moral issues, purveying a shameful image of confessors, and he ended by contesting the multitude of saints. This diatribe was warmly applauded.
Duterte also publicly promoted—and distributed freely to government employees—a book giving the details of the scandals in the clergy, written by a former seminarian. And on December 5, the newspapers reported his encouragements to slackers to kill the bishops: “Kill these bishops. This pack of imbeciles is good for nothing; all they do is criticize.”
However, with the mid-term elections coming up for the Senate, the House of Representatives and a good number of other local offices, he has changed his mind and on February 24, speaking of the bishops and priests who are threatened, he warned: “Leave them alone! Stop threatening them or you will have me to deal with.” Even those of our readers who are not doctors will have no trouble diagnosing the illness: it is a case of visceral hatred momentarily tempered by an electioneering fever.