Duterte unfazed by prospect of losing public support over ‘unconventional’ comments

Published January 2, 2019, 2:31 PM

by Francine Ciasico

By Genalyn Kabiling

President Duterte is unfazed by the prospect of losing public support over his “unconventional” comments about the Catholic Church, most recently casting doubt on the Holy Trinity doctrine.

Presidential Spokesman Salvador Panelo (OPS / MANILA BULLETIN)
Presidential Spokesman Salvador Panelo (OPS / MANILA BULLETIN)

Presidential Spokesman Salvador Panelo explained the President was merely trying to initiate an “intellectual discussion” and challenging the validity of religious rituals “bordering to fanaticism” for the enlightenment of the faithful.

“In making those unconventional discourses, the President is unmindful on any consequential erosion of his public support,” he said.

He said the President’s latest remarks were “his way of shaking long held religious tenets and beliefs that instead of molding them into being righteous individuals make them cling to religion as an opium.”

“In so doing, the President puts to a test the validity of the religious rituals bordering to fanaticism as against the practice of genuine spirituality as taught by the different personifications of one God,” he said.

The President recently launched another tirade against the Catholic Church, calling the Holy Trinity doctrine “silly” and claiming it was unimpressive for Jesus Christ to get crucified. “There’s only one God, period. You cannot divide God into three. That’s silly,” he said during his visit to Kidapawan on December 29.

Duterte also threatened to continue to attack the Church, saying it should “correct” itself before criticizing his government. He told priests not to meddle too much and instead clean up their ranks amid alleged involvement in corruption and abuse.

Panelo however said the Church and the laity should welcome the President’s comments to strengthen their faith. He noted that the President was also just seeking the “spiritual awakening” of the public.

“Rather than the Church and its believers being offended by such unorthodox narratives, they should welcome it as a process to strengthen further their faith or enlighten those who seek the truth of what they have embraced,” he said.

“His intention being to initiate an intellectual discussion for the faithful’s enlightenment and spiritual awakening which could lead them to tread the path of uprightness so necessary in the moral regeneration of a nation so abundant with religiosity but wanting in spirituality,” he added.

Panelo also justified the President’s “creative” comments as part of free speech.

He noted that the President “sets the limits of the freedom of expression to a notch higher than its common use.”

“In fulfilling his constitutional duty to serve and to protect the people, the President endeavors to be creative, using means that may be unnerving to the conservatives unused to his ways of governance but effective in putting across message he wants to convey to the majority of the people who, surveys show, approves of his maverick methods,” he said.