Catholic morals and the Duterte presidency

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MANY devout, practicing Catholics are disturbed over President-elect Rodrigo Duterte.
They wonder how they should respond to his admitted sexual behavior, his reported vigilantism and death-penalty advocacy, and his tough-talk against the bishops.

How should Catholic Filipinos—85 percent of the nation, based on baptisms—deal with the country’s leader in the coming six years?

Well, for starters, Christian doctrine dictates that legitimate, lawful authority should be respected and followed, as long as it decrees and acts for the common good and in accordance with the law, including the law of God.

So when President Duterte institutes a curfew for minors and a midnight liquor ban, Catholics should comply. That policy would be lawful and probably helpful in curbing crime, drugs, and even the lack of family time together.


On the other hand, if any official issues unlawful orders, such as the killing of criminals without due process, then Catholics are duty-bound to object and refuse to follow.

Otherwise, we transgress the Fifth Commandment, the laws against murder, and Section 1 of the Bill of Rights in the Constitution: “No person shall be deprived of life, liberty, or property without due process of law, nor shall any person be denied the equal protection of the laws.”

The arbiters of right and wrong

Who decides if orders and actions by the government violate the law and morality?
For the laws of the land, the Judiciary has the final say. For impeachable officials like the President, Congress can determine violations that warrant removal from office and eventual prosecution in court.

As for morality, Catholics should refer to the Catechism of the Catholic Church and seek counsel from its authorities, especially the bishops. We may disagree with their judgment, but we are duty-bound to follow them. That’s our religion.

Could the courts, Congress, and the Church make mistakes in adjudicating presidential actions and decrees?

Of course. They are all imperfect human institutions, subject to errors in judgment, wrong information, political pressures, ulterior motives, and plain human folly.

There are innocent poor people convicted, and guilty rich ones exonerated. Congress impeached the late Chief Justice Renato Corona amid billions of pesos in pork barrel releases, but allowed a patent violation of the Constitution: President Benigno Aquino 3rd’s Disbursement Acceleration Program usurping the legislature’s power of the purse.

As for the Catholic Church, it has at times condemned thinkers like Galileo and visionaries like St. Joan of Arc, only to rescind its judgment decades or centuries later.

And in matters of faith, the Vatican has sometimes been late in acknowledging events that have stirred countless believers, like the 1948 apparition of Mary, Mediatrix of All Grace, in Lipa, whose affirmation by two Lipa prelates was voided by Rome last week.

Let’s hold our tongue

Where does that leave the faithful seeking moral guidance on the words and actions of soon-to-be President Duterte?

Last week he said he would moderate his strong language upon taking office at noon on June 30. That may mean an end to cuss words and disrespectful statements about the Holy Father, the United Nations, certain personages, media, and other objects of presidential anger.

Even if the four-letter words continue, we just have to tell children that such language isn’t Christian. As Jesus said, “If you insult a brother or sister, you will be liable to the council; and if you say, ‘You fool,’ you will be liable to the hell of fire.”

So let’s hold our tongue even if the President may not hold his.

On sexual morals there should be little confusion for the faithful in the face of Duterte’s declared willingness for sex outside marriage. Our Lord Jesus Christ Himself forbids not just adultery, but lewd thoughts: “I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart.”

So no wolf-whistling at women, or men, for that matter, whatever the President may do. Ditto all manner of sex outside marriage between man and woman. Last time we checked, that’s the commandment of the Church.

When is it right to kill?

What about killing criminals, including drug traffickers?

We’re not talking about shootouts with armed hoods, where self-defense and lawful authority can justify deadly force. Nor the death penalty, which should be discussed in an article on its own, and which Church doctrine does not totally rule out.

Rather, the concern is over an anti-crime policy which encourages and even rewards police in eliminating lawless elements. Or worse: the deployment of vigilante groups targeting criminals.

This kind of killing seems easy to rule out, since it may lead to the death of suspects before their guilt is established. Indeed, many fear people would be liquidated on claims that they resisted arrest, with guns and narcotics planted to affirm the pretext.

Christian morality puts paramount value on life, and always stresses the imperative to safeguard it as far as possible, without endangering other lives. That means exhausting all means before resorting to deadly force.

That said, in our nation where the criminal justice system, from police to prosecution and prison, is so ineffective in fighting crime, one can see why many see the need for simply wiping out known and incorrigible criminal personalities.

In this utter failure of the justice system, with jailed drug lords even living in luxury and running their syndicates from the National Bilibid Prison, it is tempting to conclude that killing them would be the lesser evil than letting them flourish.

It’s a tough call. The Church cannot but counsel against killing except in very clear situations of self-defense. But what about society’s defense in the face of lawless groups which have gamed the law and even the jails in their favor?

Two things are clear: the criminal justice system must be drastically overhauled and dramatically improved, so that due process would in fact deter and stop most crimes. Until then, many believers, especially those in law enforcement, shall grapple with the immensely difficult choice between following the Fifth Commandment and breaking it to stop those who make their living destroying people’s lives.

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26 Comments

  1. basta ang alam ko lang po, yung tinuran ni duterte againsts the catholic church is the plain truth – walang labis, walang kulang. mas masakit lamang ang tama because he said it in his “rough, no-mincing of words” manner. hindi naman niya nilalahat ang mga pari.

    ang mahirap kasi, ayaw nilang aminin na merong din rotten eggs sa kanilang hanay. at si duterte lang ang matapang na nakapasabi nun straight to their face.

    sa totoo lang, hindi lang naman si duterte ang merong ganong paniniwala. sa mga katoliko ring katulad namin, naniniwala kami na meron ring mga buktot na pari sa hanay ng simbahang katoliko. sa totoo lang masarap nga po ang buhay ng mga pari lalo na yung mga obispo dahil para silang nasa ivory tower. naka-aircon, masarap ang kinakain, magagara ang kotse, maraming pera, parating nakatago, maliban na lang dun sa mga paring pinili ang manilbihan sa maliliit na parokya na maliit o kulang pa ang nakokolektang donasyon mula sa mga parishioners.

    mahirap nga po ang naka-atang na responsibilidad kay duterte, dahil pinili siya ng taong bayan para mamuno sa pagbabago. napakataas po ang expectations sa kanya. campaign period pa lang, ipinakita na ni duterte kung anong klaseng pagkatao meron siya. hindi niya itinago sa tao ang tunay na ugali niya. pero nagdesisyon na ang taong bayan. siya pa rin ang ibinoto kahit na tigasin siya at may-pagka rude magsalita. Bakit? Dahil nakakita sila ng pag-asa kay duterte, na itong klaseng pagkatao na ito ang merong tapang at tibay ng loob para makapagbago sa bulok na sistemang umiiral sa atin.

    yung klaseng pagkatao na ito ang nakikita ng more than 16 million voters na bumoto sa kanya na kailangan ng ating bansa upang labanan ang korupsiyon sa gobyerno, at tapusin ang lumalalang kriminalidad sa bansa. itong klaseng pagkatao na ito ang nakikita nilang merong real and authentic na political will para maisakatuparan ang mga hindi nagawa ng nakaraang administrasyon.

    sa edad na 71 years old, mahirap na para kay duterte na baguhin ang kanyang istilo dahil ito na ang kinatandaan niya. pag-nagbago siya, hindi na ito ang duterte na pinili at binoto ng 16 milliong pilipino. dapat sigurong i-adjust niya yung pananlita niya at pagjo-joke niya sa mga babae, pero hindi dapat mawala yung tibay, tatag at tapang ng loob na nakita at nagustuhan sa kanya ng mga mamamayang pilipino.

    • Thanks u said it well. Let us pray for wisdom n guidance for the durterte’s regime. God bless

  2. The confusion of this piece and your nation is sickeningly palpable–and from a so-called Christians!

    Such barbarity as extrajudicially killing untried, unconvicted humans is a sin no Christian can IMO rightly countenance, regardless of how bad you think these criminals are, or the difficulties you might have with your own people’s corruption enabling them to escape justice!

    It is people’s love of money over everything else (including a love of Jesus Christ and God) that leads them to these places of confused morality. So, please ask yourselves, (Catholic) Filipinos, what would Jesus do? Then try NOT to run away from the answer in your heart…

  3. Ayan lagot..si Flash GORDON at si DU30 Harry magkasangga..lalos kayong mga kriminal. Olongapo at Davao pareho ang litanya..walang goons na matapang sa mga lugar na ito dahil inubos. In greater terms RP must follow be it under or above the law but let the law prove the burden. In any way USA was once a lawless outback only came to abide the law when there were more deads than the living..this is how great nations are made. The filter first and purify later doctrine at its best….

    • meron bang evidence na officially sanctioned and widespread ang pag salvage ng kriminal sa olongapo? Or is it due to old fashioned good policework by the olongapo police and good governmance by the olongapo govt which gives poor people the chance to earn an honest living?

  4. Maraming mga pari ngayon yumaman dahil sa mga abuloy. Samantalang maraming mga Katoliko na walang kinakain. Dito sa amin may mga obispo na malawak ang lupain pinangalangan sa kanyang mga kapatid. Nagpa opisyal sa mga cooperativa para galawin ang pera. Sana makita ito ni Socrates Villegas. Nakarating na sa kanya ang complain at na lathala na sa mga lokal na pahayagan pero walang nagawa ang mga obispo. Kalat na itong alagad sa Diyos na may mga anak sa labas at kasalukuyan may girlfriend. Tama din si Digong.

    • Yeah, mag file ka ng kaso if may ebidnesya ka.

      But even if talagang ginawa yun ng simbahan, does that in any way negate the message of this article?

  5. basilio Jamisola on

    The true blue Catholics will abide with the morals of the Church. The rest don’t have to because they are no longer Catholics. They already belong to the Iglisia ni Duterte.

  6. Pope F1 already said that sexual morals take a back seat to the fight for social justice.

    According to F1, commies are allowed to kill christians, who stand in their way. By this logic, D30 should also be allowed to kill his enemies.

    • Let this be a reminder, our religious beliefs must be base on the Bible. Much that I respect the Pope, he is not the the basis of our faith. If the Pope makes these weird statements, we must not follow as Christians. Our head is God the Father thru Jesus Christ not anybody and I am not disrespecting the Pope.

    • IMPEACHMENT should be considered regarding a president who says it A-okay for an NPA court to present their evidence, try and find guilty a person they have kidnapped .

  7. What about the Catholics and the Catholic Church? Are they still relevant? Many have already left the church and joined other groups. The reason is not only sex abuses by the priests, financial scandals reaching even the Vatican, but most of all the teachings that are mostly contrary to the words of God written in the Bible.

    • …as bishops says..there are sinners but there are saints..ilan po kaya ang nkkalam kung gaano karami ang natututlunganng institusyon ng katoliko..ilang home for the aged ang tinatayo na kung ilang dekada n functioning pa rin, un kaya para sa mga bata at kapus palad, ilang pari kaya ang iniwan ang marangyang buhay para maglingkod….marami daw ang umaalis pero may nagsasabi ba kung ilang ang naiiwan sa mga katoliko…sure we are not perfect, and there are sinners , but there still saints…

    • The Catholic Church as an institution must be careful in their teachings. They must stick to the Bible. The problem is they are now heavily scrutinized by their followers comparing their sermons to the Bible. I left the Catholic Church because I started reading the Bible and notice the glaring differences. I still believe in the Trinity but the separate teachings of the Catholic church I do not follow. There is no purgatory, no venial sin , no mortal sin and no indulgence just to name a few. It is not in the Bible so it is not God word.

    • The Bible is only a summary. Don’t assume that it has all the details of the gospel. Even John said not all the stories about Jesus can be written. Maybe a book will be found somewhere which will tell more about Him. However, customs and traditions of early christians handed down by generations are important considerations in the Catholic church.

    • From the Aramaic Bible in Plain English:
      1 John 5:17 “For every evil is sin, and there is sin that is not mortal.”
      Matthew 5:26 and Luke 12:59 “And truly I say to you, you will not get out of there until you give the last quarter cent.”
      1 Peter 3:18-19 “Because The Messiah also died once for the sake of our sins, The Righteous One in the place of sinners, to bring you to God, and died in body and lived in his Spirit. And he preached to those souls who were held in Sheol…”
      You can deduce the Latin words: venial sin and purgatory. Latin is the official language of the Catholic Church.

  8. Digong Duterte should take his oath as President of Davao City and not president of the Philippines if he doesn’t want to occupy malacanang, he was elected by majority of the Filipino people and not the small portion of voters of Davao city. Duterte is a dictator, he wants the Filipino to follow even his illegal orders? no way! The AFP and PNP should not follow his orders and should not honor his appointed AFP chief of Staff and his Stupid PNP Chief, we cannot allow NPA and rerrorists to rule our country. Gaya ni Paquiao, Duterte tumiwalag na rin kayo sa katoliko di kayo kailangan ng mga 100 milyong katoliko sa Pilipinas, nagoyo niyo ,majority who voted you are members of Catholics you won not because of INC, Quiboloy or other Christian religions who comprised a small religious sect in the Philippines.All his appointed Cabinet members shouls all resign as a sign of protest against idiotic president in the name of Digong-Gunggong!

    • ..kakalungkot tinitira ang institusyong katoliko dahil sa mga isolated cases, di wari tingnan a sa whole at kung gaano karami ang natulungan…saludo sayo kapatid defender of the faith ka rin…

    • Your comments shows your character and kind of a person you are. Most of Catholics are already fed-up with the system the church leaders are imposing. Galit sila sa corrupt eh sila mismong nakararaming namumuno ay mga corrupt. And who are you to say that the newly appointed cabinet members of Duterte to resign? You are calling the president idiot? who are you Mr. Moron?

  9. Ped Salvador on

    Demons in the society do not need a criminal justice system! You do not need an immortal to uproot and remove them! Once found guilty a mortal must eliminate them!

  10. Again, isang kahangahangang pagsusulat Sir. Ang galing nyo po kasi mmagbalanse nang inyong sinusulat na wala kang tatapakan na tao maliban na lang kung ultra-left ka siguro or ultra right. Anyway, a few comments and challenges po with the premise that STILL Christianity is NOT God-created. It is Christ-inspired BUT not God-Created. So:

    1. Who could prove that the 10 Commandments is the law of God? My position is we have accepted it but never challenged the authenticity if indeed it was God who instructed it.
    2. In the same token, is there really a solid proof that the Bible (with new and old testament on it) really the WORD of God? Really? The same way we prove a crime to be beyond resonable doubt or even near it?

    With the many inconsistencies we have seen in the Bible and its interpretation, hindi kaya meron talagang mas credible na nakasulat about God, His/Her sound Revelation that preaches true love true unity and not exclusivity?

    With this, and for those matatalino nating mga kapatid na tao, i offer The Urantia Book (urantia.org). God blessings be upon us. And a prayer for Mr Saludo to be contuously enlightened and give light to his readers.

    • Prove that Urantia book is the word of God. Who then is your God ? It is always impossible to discuss about religion because nobody has seen God the Father. If you can definitely tell me with tangible proof of your God, thn I am willing to listen.

  11. mr saludo should remember that majority of those who voted Pres Duterte are we catholics who wants change, sawa na corruption sa gobyerno, at gusto ng matigil ang kriminalidad at drug problem sa atin bansa. ang mga problemang ito ay pinabayaang lumago sa mga past administrations specially kay abnoy aquino.

    hindi naman lahat na obispo o pari ang kinakalaban ni Pres Duterte kung di iyon mga obispo at pari na believe sa sarili nila na wala namang nagawa gaya ni Bishop Socrates Villegas whom we know is a true blood yellow supporter since the time of cory aquino at si Bishop Oscar Cruz na palagi na lang yakyak ng yakyak since the time of Pres Ramos. our bishops and priests should mind our church and we followers.

    kailangan na ng strong will at kamay na bakal sa pagsugpo ng corruptions, kriminalidad, at drugs. we support Pres Duterte in these campaigns.

    • In my opinion, the Catholic Church has lost its credibility . The Catholic issued a sermon prior to the election not to vote for an unnamed candidate whose description fits Duterte, did the Catholics followed the order? Catholics are a bunch of oppurtunalist . They follow candidates that will help them in their hardships. The only person that can help them is themselves. That is the truth. No Duterte, no Estrada, no Poe , no Binay, no Mar can help the poor. Let us e serious in helping the poor.