DAVAO CITY—President-in-waiting Rodrigo Duterte on Sunday denounced the Catholic Church as “the most hypocritical institution” and brushed aside complaints from his long-time friend and patron, the Christian evangelist Apollo Quiboloy, that he was being shut out of discussions over who should serve in the new Cabinet.
In a press conference here, Duterte vowed that no religious groups, campaign contributors or friends would affect his decisions in government.
“Let me be very clear, my loyalty to you as my friend... ends where the interest of the country begins,” Duterte said. “I would as much as possible make you happy if you are my friend, but I will not allow anybody to [lend] color [to] my decisions in government. From now on, it is always the interest of the people of the Republic of the Philippines that counts, period.”
The statement seemed to be aimed at Quiboloy, whose spokesman had complained that Duterte aides were keeping the pastor away from the mayor.
Quiboloy, one of Duterte’s biggest campaign donors and financiers, questioned the appointment of some individuals to the incoming Cabinet who were not even part of the campaign that supported his candidacy.
Quiboloy’s spokesman Mike Abe also accused Duterte’s top aide, Christopher Go, of blocking Quiboloy’s efforts to reach the mayor, a charge Go denied.
“It’s just a work of fiction, it’s a made-up story. How could it be a cordon sanitaire when all communications coming from [Quiboloy’s] lawyer, attorney [Charmalou] Aldevera, are reaching [him] everyday. They may not be talking always but they are reaching him,” Go told The Standard.
Duterte also defended his top aide from the accusations coming from Quiboloy’s camp, saying that it was never in his character to do such things.
“For the life of me, I do not allow people to control me. I do not allow people to put conditions over me. I do not allow people to compromise me,” he said.
Reacting to criticism of his choice of real estate scion and Las Piñas Rep. Mark Villar as his secretary of Public Works and Highways because of possible conflicts of interest, Duterte said he would have Villar draw a map showing where his family’s real estate developments were to “avoid making a road or alley there.”
He said he wanted Villar in the post because he needs a “good organizational man there.”
Duterte also dismissed media complaints that his press secretary once lawyered for members of the Ampatuan clan accused of carrying out the Maguindanao massacre in which 58 people—including 34 journalists—were killed.
“He’s a friend of 20 years,” Duterte said, urging critics to accept his decision.
He said his appointees were “experts in their fields, or valedictorians” and were not corrupt.
“I already had these people in mind. That’s why it came easy,” Duterte said.
Duterte says despite the recent developments, he and Quiboloy remain friends.
“Of course. It’s not him but his PR man,” he said, referring to Abe. “I’ll reach out to him.”
Later in the day, Duterte lashed out at the Catholic Church for campaigning against him days before the May 9 elections, despite its “long history of wrongdoing.”
Describing his landslide win as a “public referendum” between him and the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines, which released a pastoral letter urging Catholics not to vote for him, Duterte challenged Catholic prelates to a debate so that he can expose the alleged “sins of the church” before assuming office on June 30.
“They campaigned against me, everybody was saying ‘Do not vote for Duterte.’ Fine. I said, let this election be a referendum between me and the Catholic Church.... Look, were you able to stop me?”
“You have been castigating me or criticizing me—you want a debate before I become president? Okay! Let all the bishops rise. I will tell you the sins of the Catholic Church beginning from the time the institution of the papacy was established,” he continued.
“I will lecture until June 29 [about] the sins of the Catholic Church, and whether or not you are still relevant. The most hypocritical institution is the Catholic Church,” Duterte said.
Eight days before Election Day, the CBCP urged voters to reject a candidate who takes positions that are “not only politically precarious but worse, morally reprehensible,” in a clear reference to Duterte, then the presidential frontrunner.
In the pastoral letter, the CBCP also dissuaded the public from voting for a candidate who has shown “scant regard” for the rights of others and the teachings of the Church.
“There is a fundamental difference between right and wrong, and not everything is fair game in politics. A choice for a candidate who takes positions that are not only politically precarious but worse, morally reprehensible, cannot and should not be made by the Catholic faithful and those who take their allegiance to Christ and his Kingship seriously,” the pastoral letter read.
The bishops added that the desire for change is understandable, but this should not push citizens to choose a leader who has no regard for morality and the rights of others.
Saying that the bishops were all hypocrites, Duterte said he could name those who sought favors from then President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, including the use of luxury vehicles.
“Some Filipinos were starving and others didn’t have any medicine, but you were enjoying the money of the goddamn people of the Philippines by riding [in those luxury vehicles]. Aren’t you ashamed, you sons of bitches?” he said in Filipino. “That amounts to graft and corruption.”
He also said other bishops have taken mistresses.
“If I start to name the bishops who got married or about the women in their lives, the Catholic Church will explode. Do not think you are the moralizing agents of the society. As long as you are a human being, you are [bound] to fall down... You’re all pageantry,” Duterte said.
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