Palace: Opposition, critics to blame for threats on bishops
MANILA, Philippines – Malacañang on Thursday turned the tables on the opposition and critics who blamed President Rodrigo Duterte for the alleged death threats on bishops of the Catholic Church.
Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo said detractors of the President had been “manipulating” his statements to make him “look bad and malicious.”
Panelo said Duterte’s statements about bishops were “jokes” that were “converted by these haters” to appear as “grave and serious order[s]” to confuse the public.
Panelo issued the statement after opposition senators Leila de Lima and Risa Hontiveros said that Duterte should be blamed for the threats received by clergymen including threats on Caloocan Bishop Pablo David, who has been critical of the President.
David has revealed that he has been receiving death threats following the verbal attacks against him by the President.
Duterte also earlier revealed that he received a text message from Manila Archbishop Luis Antonio G. Cardinal Tagle saying that David and other priests have received death threats from someone claiming to be part or close to the first family.
Panelo reiterated that Duterte’s remarks against clergymen, including the President’s call to kill and rob bishops and priests, were merely jokes.
“To reiterate what I previously said, a joke is a joke is a joke. The President’s remarks on some members of the clergy were done in jest or were made using figure of speech or hyperbole. The Filipino people know and approve this unorthodox and out-of-the-box style of the Chief Executive in delivering his message to them,” Panelo said in a statement.
He said Duterte was “a natural teaser” and his crass language was his style.
“This has been his approach since he assumed the presidency and this was his manner of communicating way back when he was still a mayor of Davao City and even when he was growing up,” he said.
“He is a natural teaser. His audience responds animatedly to his comedic utterances. The public knows when the President is serious and they also understand when he only means to be comical,” he added.
The Palace official said the critics of Duterte must be blamed for the death threats against members of the Catholic Church and not the President.
“Therefore, if there is one to blame, it is the critics and detractors of the President and this Administration who have been constantly painting a different picture by manipulating PRRD’s statements and making them appear to look bad and malicious,” he said.
“A joke perceived to be a joke by Filipinos are converted by these haters into a grave and serious marching order so as to confuse the public and at the same time put themselves in a position where they can criticize the President,” he added.
“The grave threats,” he said, “could be done by pranksters, or by anti- Duterte trolls or by the personal enemies of the Bishop.”
In his public speeches in December 2018 and in January, Duterte told bystanders to kill bishops or steal from them as he stepped up his attacks against the Catholic Church.
But in a speech on Monday, he changed his tune and warned the public not to kill bishops and priests.
“[W]e will not allow any harm done to him. Anyone who attempts at harming him will have the full force of the law to contend with,” Panelo said.
“Let the members of the Catholic hierarchy be assured that the President means no harm. They need not be afraid as we are one with them in their mission in thwarting evil,” he added.
He said that “those who must be afraid are the criminals, the corrupt, the evildoers, the scoundrels, the terrorists and the drug lords and pushers.”
The President, he said “is serious in bringing about genuine and meaningful change in our society”
“Nothing in this world will stop the President from fulfilling his constitutional task of serving and protecting the nation from destruction or dismemberment coming from whatever sources,” he added.
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