He may have publicly rebuked the Catholic Church in the past but President Duterte is not about to pick a fight with priests.
The President made clear that he had nothing against clergymen but admitted his beef with the Catholic Church.
Duterte made the statement after lauding a new coalition of anti-crime volunteers, that included representatives from the religious sector, during its launch at the police headquarters in Quezon City Friday.
“I do not quarrel with priests. I criticize the church, the Roman Catholic Church; not the individual priests or the lay workers who work for God,” he said.
Duterte was attending the launch of new group of volunteers, considered force multipliers, in the police campaign against criminality at Camp Crame, when he mentioned his view about the Church. He called the “selfless” volunteers from various sector of society “a new batch of heroes.”
“To our volunteer barangay officials, environmentalists, women’s groups, the LGBT community, riders and motorists, the religious sector,” he said, pausing in the middle of the speech.
Duterte then asked the audience that included policemen and volunteers: “Is there a priest here? No?”
When a cop-priest stood up, Duterte made the peace sign and quipped: “Peace, father.”
Philippine National Police chief Guillermo Eleazar and the rest of the audience were seen applauding the President’s remarks.
“We all have a part in building a better nation. I am pleased to know that you have heeded the call to serve and improve the quality of life of our people,” Duterte told the coalition of anti-crime volunteers.
Duterte, who previously claimed to be molested by a priest when he was in high school, has often blasted the alleged abuse and corruption hounding the Catholic Church. He previously declared that the church was the most hypocritical institution in the country. He once jokingly asked drug addicts to rob and steal from rich bishops amid his tirade against alleged clerical abuses.