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Duterte gives bishops a lashing

MANILA (UCAN): The president of The Philippines, Rodrigo Duterte, lashed out at retired Archbishop Fernando Capalla for criticising his war on narcotics that has resulted in the death of more than 4,000 people, who have been accused of being involved in the drug trade.

Archbishop Capalla is the former bishop of Davao, Duterte’s heartland. He lost his own brother to a bullet of an assassin in an extrajudicial in 2014.

“I’m really appalled by so many groups and individuals, including priests and bishops, complaining about the number of persons killed in the operation against the drug problem,” the president, who becomes angry, irate and inarticulate in the face of criticism, said.

“This Capalla, our bishop there, is criticising me,” the president said in a speech before police personnel in the southern Philippine city of Zamboanga on October 10.

In his normal way, he accused the bishop, as well as priests who have voiced concern over the rising number of killings, of having mistresses. 

“These priests are sons of bitches,” Duterte said, using one of the few phrases he seems to know.

Archbishop Capalla, who is the convener of the Bishops-Ulama Conference, a group that promotes understanding between Muslims and Christians, said the killings are getting into a spiral and it seems they are intensifying.

“Wrong is wrong, even if everybody is doing it and right is right even if nobody is doing it,” he said in a television interview.

“Our sense of morality, our moral values, our sense of right and wrong is not anymore strict. Our conscience has become callous, the end does not justify the means,” he continued.

The archbishop urged Duterte “to listen to the people, to the poor people who are also suffering.”

Duterte denies that the government approves of the executions of suspected drug users and dealers. “I lose two policemen a day all over the country. How can you say we tolerate the killings?” he said, using a rather confusing logic.

On October 7, the bishops of Negros strongly criticised Duterte’s incendiary statements that tend to encourage the killing of drug addicts.

“We are deeply concerned that this alarming insensitivity could lead to a deadening of conscience and the dawning of a culture of death,” a joint-pastoral letter from the bishops of Bacolod, Dumaguete, San Carlos and Kabankalan, says.

Several Church leaders pointed out that they would not be surprised if their relationship with the president will worsen in the coming days.

“It will not improve,” Archbishop Ramon Arguelles, from Lipa, said. “It will not improve because that is his character.”

Archbishop Arguelles said he expects the president to make true on his threat to expose scandals involving priests and bishops.

The Duterte fan added that he expects the worst. “There is also a need to purify the Church,” he said, adding that many have tried to destroy the Church in the past, but have not succeeded.

“It is only right,” he said, adding that he cannot blame Duterte for his attitude toward the Church because of the criticism he receives from some Church leaders.

Retired Archbishop Oscar Cruz said Church leaders would not remain silent in the face of  this atrocity, “Because there are certain realities that are not acceptable, especially the killings.”