THE 30 MINUTES that President Rodrigo Duterte had Monday with Archbishop Romulo Valles, president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines, were too short for taking up his litany of grievances against God and the Church.
Duterte’s objections to (or misunderstanding of) some Church doctrines and practices appear to have left scars in over half-century of his life that are too deep to soothe in just a half-hour.
Even assuming Duterte still considers himself a Catholic, reconciliation in that brief meeting was not as easy as going to confession, making an act of contrition, doing penance, then being blessed and admonished to sin no more.
For one, Duterte that time was not going to confession. For another, Valles himself probably did not expect to find him mollified enough to unburden himself that quickly of genuine grievances, plus whatever misdeeds and insecurities bothered him.
Where we watch from the back pew, it looks like great effort still has to be exerted for the parties to reach out to each other for constructive collaboration for their common constituency.
After Duterte said the next day “Sorry, God!” (to Him and to no one else), the bishops continued with activities calendared beforehand. An example is the mobilization for tomorrow’s nationwide day of prayer and penance.
Duterte has continued firing away. In a speech at a business summit in the Clark Freeport in Pampanga the next day, he threatened to “kill” those who, he said, use God to disparage him.
“There is a separation of power between any Church and State,” he said. “Huwag mong isali ang Diyos mo doon sa (do not include God in your) platform of your criticism on your attack because when I answer, kapag sinali mo sa issue, sinali mo ang Diyos, p**** i** patayin kita (if you include it in the issue, if you include God, son of a b****, I would kill you)!”
• Pastoral letter seeks prayers, penance
THE SCATHING rhetoric, notwithstanding, we believe with the bishops that prayer and penance will help guide any Saul, even one blinded by wrath, on the way to his Damascus.
On the day of the Palace dialogue, the CBCP – “invoking God’s mercy and justice on those who have blasphemed God’s Holy Name” — advised the faithful in a pastoral letter about tomorrow’s activity:
“On the feast of the Blessed Mother of Mt. Carmel, the mountain associated with the bold challenge of the prophet Elijah in defense of God (2 Kings 18), let us spend a day of prayer and penance, invoking God’s mercy and justice on those who have blasphemed God’s Holy Name, those who slander and bear false witness, and those who commit murder or justify murder as a means for fighting criminality in our country.”
The bishops also invited the people to participate in three days of fasting, prayer and almsgiving from July 17 to July 19 (Tuesday to Thursday).
The media covering the Vatican, meanwhile, have picked up the news about the only dominantly Catholic nation in Asia in conflict with the Duterte regime, heightening global awareness. A Zenit.org report from Rome said:
“The Philippines has been beset with violence and anti-Christian sentiment in recent months, including President Rodrigo Duarte’s reference to God as ‘stupid’ and his offer to resign if anyone could prove God exists. In addition, three Catholic priests have been assassinated in the past six months.”
Zenit noted that while the CBCP pastoral letter “does not mention any political or cultural leaders by name, it uses strong language to condemn the lack of care for the poor.” It quoted portions of the bishops’ exhortation:
“Our sufferings as Church leaders are nothing compared to the sufferings of the poor in our country… Do we not hear the cry of poor slum-dwellers being jailed for ‘loitering’? Have they forgotten that for the homeless urban poor — the little alleys between their flimsy homes also serve as kitchens, bathrooms, recreation spaces, and playgrounds for their children? Have they forgotten that they live in tiny dwellings that are razed quickly to the ground when fire strikes, because they do not have proper roads? Do we not feel the sufferings of drug addicts who are labelled as ‘non-humans’, and are stigmatized as criminals when their names end up in the dreaded ‘drug watch lists’?
“Yes, we are aware of the sufferings of those who have been victimized by substance abusers, but can we not see them also as sick people who are struggling with a disease? Should we not rather look at them also as victims who are crying out for help? Are we to remain as bystanders when we hear of people being killed in cold blood by ruthless murderers who dispose of human lives like trash? Do we not realize that for every drug suspect killed, there is a widowed wife and there are orphaned children left behind — who could hardly even afford a decent burial for their loved ones? Do we not care when poor people’s homes are searched without warrants, or when drug suspects are arrested without warrants, or detained without charges?”
• DTI program mentors small businesses
THE NATIONAL Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSME) summit that Duterte addressed Tuesday in Clark aims to mentor modest businesses to flourish and join the mainstream under a program of the Department of Trade and Industry.
DTI Region III information officer Warren Serrano said the program called “Kapatid Mentor Micro Enterprises” is designed to upgrade 20 micro entrepreneurs per province, or 140 for the entire region.
Serrano said: “They will undergo a 12-course mentoring program equivalent to a master’s degree. The program has been there since 2015, with most of them having levelled up from micro enterprise to small enterprise.”
The mentors are experts from the Philippine Center for Entrepreneurship, the academe and the business sector. Among them are Rowena Vallesteros, owner of Tokyo Tempura, and Sheryll Quintana, owner of Oryspa Spa Solutions Inc.