Whatever dark spirit has been driving President Duterte’s bashing of God, Catholicism and the Church’s teachings, Filipinos emerging from their Lenten spiritual retreat should come out stronger in their resolve to defend their faith.
One action that the 80-percent Catholic majority in the Philippines can take is to rebuke Duterte by casting a resounding protest vote against him and his candidates in the midterm election on May 13.
Religion should not be an election issue, but Duterte has politicized the passive majority’s religious beliefs in a gross manner unexpected of a president. A provoked electorate can only react in kind.
How come he has never breathed even just a hint of criticism against an Islamic belief or practice? That he is deathly scared of offending Muslims but not hesitant to insult Catholics shows what kind of brittle stuff the Mayor is made of.
The name of Duterte is not on the ballot this May, but as he is obviously aware that the election is also a referendum on his turbulent presidency, he has taken to campaigning for the revalidation of his mandate.
He devotes a good part of his rambling campaign speeches to his programs and performance – spiced with his trade-mark curses and diatribes against things Catholic – before he segues almost as an after-thought to briefly mention his candidates sitting bored on stage.
If they are worthy to be senators, the Catholics among the candidates should have the courage to stand to defend their faith when challenged or ridiculed in their presence. If they cannot even bark in the face of an attack, they are likely to become mere Palace lapdogs in the Senate kennel.
Candidates who do not speak up when their faith is assailed big time do not deserve a public office. If they do not want to be put on the spot, they better not join Duterte’s sorties – as some of their smarter teammates are doing to avoid being splattered by the growing disenchantment with the administration.
In campaign sorties, forums and interviews, Catholic candidates should be made to define clearly their stand on the relentless attack on their Church. Do they agree, for instance, with these samples of Duterte’s diatribes:
• “And even this Last Supper who are the idi*ts there? Basta na lang ginawang santo kasi nandun sila sa painting… San Isidro, San Pablo, St. Jude, Santo Rodrigo, kung sino na lang.”
• “Paano ka maka-concentrate na yung Diyos mo pinako sa krus. Tang*na yan. Nakakawala ng bilib. Ako ang Diyos tapos ipako mo ako? P*t*ng In*! ”
There has been no letup in Duterte’s attacks, even as this dominantly Catholic nation pauses and prays during the Semana Santa. In his speech Tuesday in Tuguegarao City, he again whaled away at Church doctrine and prelates who had criticized his bloody drug war.
The President said: “Alam mo p*t*ng in* may giyera. I have declared war. Pag hindi, matalo ang bayan ko. Kayong mga pari wala man kayong gawin. Mag-ano kayo forgiveness, forgiveness. Madala ba ’yan ng forgiveness?”
He made fun of the sacrament of reconciliation, saying that with the number of sins he commits, he would have to go to confession every day:
“Kaya ako hindi nagsisimba. Kasi ’pag magsimba ako, ‘Forgive me, father, for I have killed three last night.’ Balik na naman ako kinabukasan, ‘Father, forgive me because I have killed 10 drug lords.’ Pabalik-balik ako, bakit pa ako magpunta doon? Useless.”
He questioned again the concept of heaven and hell, one of his favorite topics. He joked that he would prefer to go to hell because, he surmised, it would be full of beautiful and willing women.
He went on: “Saan ang pinakamagandang babae dito sa Cagayan? Sa langit? Saan ’yung magaganda diyan sa mga bar, sa karaoke, ’yung magagandang katawan, magandang mukha, nasaan kaya sila? Nasa impiyerno… Anong gawain mo sa langit? Akbayan mo sila? Amoy-amoyin mo? P*t*ng in*ng San Pedro na ’yan.”
Are those in the crowd who laughed at his irreverence and/or his stage antics (such as using the microphone to illustrate various states of the male genitals), did so because they were being entertained, playing along, or agreeing?
It is not just its assault on the majority’s religious beliefs that shows the Duterte regime’s moral bankruptcy. Its dismal showing in crime, corruption, livelihood, human rights and China issues also betrays a disturbing incapacity to govern well.
• Tagle: Reject fake news, hate speech
BACK at the Manila Cathedral, archbishop Chito Cardinal Tagle urged the faithful in his Maundy Thursday message to turn the other cheek to their tormentors and to proclaim: “I will not deliver fake news, hate speech. I am consecrated by the Spirit.”
Leading the celebration of the Chrism mass, the cardinal said: “We are consecrated, anointed by the Spirit. Parents, teachers, go live for consecration. Proclaim good news.” He warned that there are “so many who are bearers of bad news, fake news, hate speech.”
(In the Chrism mass, the bishop joined by the priests in his diocese, blesses the chrism, a mixture of olive oil and balsam. The holy chrism is used in the sanctification of individuals as in the sacraments of baptism, confirmation, and holy orders.)
Tagle noted how many young Filipinos wallow in bad news, and have difficulty finishing their studies sometimes because of bullying in school and exposure to hate speech, or the pressure of high expectations from their family.
“So many young people never hear good news,” the cardinal lamented. “They only hear criticism… they hear only their incapacity to meet the expectations.”
He said there are many different kinds of enslavery and that the youth do not always know that they have already been held enslaved.
But those consecrated by the Spirit, he said, can proclaim their being free from captivity and not lead others, especially the young, to further captivity and imprisonment.
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