THERE is no way that a Rodrigo Duterte can bring the Catholic church in the Philippines to its knees — as he seems to want to do unless it “corrects itself” — by escalating his tirades against the faith of some 80 million Filipinos.
If the Church kneels, it is to pray for the return of the sheep that has strayed from the flock. The dawning of a new year could be an auspicious moment to pray for enlightenment and reconciliation.
Shifting to attack mode in his speech during the distribution last Saturday of land reform certificates in Kidapawan City, Duterte said: “Dahan-dahan lang kayo (Go slow)… (The church) has to correct itself… Pag hindi, kalaban nila talaga nila ako (If not, I will remain its enemy)… And I will continue to attack them.” Watch video:bit.ly/2LEgg7n
We could laugh off Duterte’s threat to the Church as another of his misplaced jokes, but he has not himself bothered to clarify or take back his words. Pressing his attack, he recited a litany of more alleged misconduct of priests.
He said a 30-year-old priest in Davao City died of AIDS last week, that another one beat up a minor who failed to feed his pet dog, and that a priest celebrating Mass prayed for Duterte’s death. He also accused the Church of inventing hell to scare people into obedience.
Duterte comes as a latter-day protestant. There is no issue on faith and morals that he has brought against the Catholic church that has not been raised before by more consequential cynics and profound thinkers.
His recurring questions, including those on basic tenets like the creation, original sin, the communion of saints, and the Holy Trinity have been adequately answered. All the lucid answers have been there all along, one only has to open his mind in good faith.
In some cases, parental guidance and enrolment in a Catholic school like the Ateneo de Davao have proved inadequate in helping a lackadaisical youth in growing in his faith.
From personal experience, we can say that the farther and longer we stray from the Church — especially the Mass and the sacraments — the more difficult it is to find our way back. Sin has a way of beclouding rationality and judgment.
Meanwhile, the pealing of church bells in Balangiga and elsewhere invites us, including our political elders made cynical and scarred by unfortunate episodes in their lives, to go on a spiritual retreat and relearn the faith of our fathers.
In his speech where he also criticized the communist seniors led by Jose Ma. Sison in the Netherlands, Duterte reiterated his misgivings about the Bible and the veneration of saints.
He said: “Look, these documents were written, if at all, 3,000 years ago. What is their relevance to our lives today? Who wrote them? Who is St. Thomas? We do not know who he is. Perhaps it was just a name of a camel then. Magdasal ka na sa isang Diyos, magdasal ka pa dito sa mga santong yawa. (You pray to God but you also have to pray to these devil saints).”
Some of us were shocked hearing the President of the Philippines sharing in his speech a confession he made in his youth of how he sneaked into the room of their maid, lifted her blanket and touched her genitals, mentioning even the detail of his using his finger.
Duterte mistakes the laughter of his audience for approval of his dirty talk. His story-telling spiced with curses and attacks on his critics and detractors has thus become his main fare when he entertains homesick Filipino overseas workers during his trips.
• Duterte to NPA: Why die for Sison?
PRESIDENT Duterte makes sense asking communist rebels why they should be loyal to Jose Ma. Sison who leads a motley group of ageing revolutionaries directing the guerilla fighters by remote control from the safety of the Netherlands.
There is something odd about supposed leaders living a life of comfort in their European haven while members of the New People’s Army, the armed component of the Communist Party of the Philippines, are doing the fighting and the dying.
In his speech Saturday in Kidapawan, Duterte asked why NPA warriors should suffer and die for someone whom they have not even seen. Sison, CPP founder and chairman, was once a professor of Duterte at the Lyceum of the Philippines. He has been on asylum in the Netherlands since 1987.
Duterte said in Pilipino: “Why listen to Sison? What does he know? Social justice? You have not even seen that b**** yet you die for his beliefs. It’s that simple. xxx You just listen to lectures but you have not seen him. You have not seen the guy. He is in Amsterdam experiencing the cool weather there. Even his b**** have become frozen.”
On the other hand, the administration, particularly the armed forces, also needs Sison and the NPA. Without rebels and such insurgents, government troops could find themselves relegated to building infrastructure or planting crops to justify their huge budget.
Without the Sison group ensconced in the Netherlands, where would the government’s so-called negotiating panel go for the much-awaited junkets for the never-ending peace talks?
And then, Sison’s hyped revolution could come in as an additional excuse when Duterte decides to declare martial law.
Talks between the government and the rebels collapsed in 2017 after Duterte accused the communists of demanding a power-sharing deal. The communist side denied making such a demand.