Ardent supporters of Davao City mayor and now aspiring presidential candidate Rodrigo Duterte fired back on Wednesday at the leader of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) for allegedly being judgmental instead of hearing out the mayor’s explanation on why he cursed Pope Francis during his proclamation speech.
Dante Jimenez, chairman of the Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption (VACC) and a staunch supporter of Duterte, said Archbishop Socrates Villegas should have personally asked the mayor what he meant with his statement.
“Bishop Villegas really was not able to get the true message of that statement, as a priest he should have asked the mayor first and allowed him to clarify his statement instead of using his position as president of CBCP to criticize Mayor Duterte,” Jimenez told The Manila Times.
The PDP-Laban on Monday formally proclaimed Duterte and Sen. Alan Peter Cayetano as the party’s official candidates for President and Vice President.
Duterte last week withdrew his certificate of candidacy for reelection and filed a new COC as a substitute for Martin Diño, the original PDP-Laban candidate.
During his invective-filled speech on Monday, the mayor complained about being stuck in a traffic jam during Pope Francis’ visit to Manila in January because of road closures.
“Gusto kong tawagan: ‘Pope p******, umuwi ka na. Huwag nang mag bisita dito [I wanted to call him and say, ‘Pope, ******, go home. Do not visit us here],” he said.
In the same event, Duterte also admit to having killed people and of being a womanizer.
Villegas, in reaction, said,“Vulgarity is corruption. When we find vulgarity funny, we have really become beastly and barbaric as a people.”
“When a revered and loved and admired man like Pope Francis is cursed by a political candidate and the audience laugh, I can only bow my head and grieve in great shame. My countrymen have gone to the dregs,” the archbishop added.
Duterte immediately apologized after his statement backfired and drew flak.
He, however, denied cursing the leader of the Roman Catholic Church and said he was venting his frustration at the government.
The mayor said he fully understands the reaction of people who were displeased with his statement.
Jimenez, meanwhile, said the CBCP’s position on Duterte is understandable because he does not expect the Church to say something good about Duterte since it does not want him to win in next year’s elections.
“They [CBCP)] do not want Mayor Duterte to win because he will bring back the death penalty and the Church has been known to oppose it,” he added.
Jimenez went on to accuse Villegas of allowing himself to be a propagandist of politicians particularly of President Benigno Aquino 3rd.
Watch what you say
Malacañang on Wednesday said Duterte should now be “more conscientious” about what he says in public.
“If he’d not mentioned Pope Francis’ name, nothing of this sort would ever arise. So, it’s about being more conscientious of what you say as [a]public official,” its spokesman Edwin Lacierda said also on Wednesday.
‘Man on a horseback’
Despite the adverse impact of Duterte’s statement, the mayor seems to still enjoy strong support from different sectors of society and he will continue to get more support because Filipinos are longing for a leader who could provide solutions to the country’s problems, a political analyst said.
Bobby Tuazon, director for policy studies of the Center for People Empowerment in Governance (CenPEG), said after decades of empty promises, many Filipinos are ready for a “man on a horseback” type of leader.
He added that some people may disagree with Duterte’s human rights record or his being a confessed womanizer, but the problems confronting the people, from corruption to poverty and criminality, are just so overwhelming.
“With no concrete solutions in sight, people will ignore a presumptive President’s idiosyncrasies for as long as he’s proven to be a man of action anticipating further that the tough administration he has done for Davao can be replicated throughout the country,” Tuazon pointed out.
He, however, pointed out that Duterte is yet to expound and win over many people to his platform, which includes federalism, an iron-clad rule of law, pluralist politics and final peace agreements with both Muslim rebels and the underground Left.
Tuazon said the traits Duterte has been showing do not necessarily mean that he can be a good and performing President because the people are yet to see whether the mayor can do the job as the nation’s leader.