.- The president-elect of the Philippines, Rodrigo Duterte, recently described the country's bishops as corrupt and “sons of whores” for allegedly resorting to seeking favors from politicians.
During a May 20 press conference, the president-elect described the Catholic Church as “the most hypocritical institution” and insulted the Filipino bishops: “You sons of whores, aren't you ashamed? You ask for so many favors, even from me.”
It is estimated that more than 80% of Filipinos are part of the Catholic Church.
Duterte won 38.5 percent of the vote for president of the Philippines, which was held May 9. While the nation's congress has not yet declared the result official, his lead is unassailable.
Currently mayor of Davao City, Duterte has built his political image as a tough leader. Nicknamed “the Punisher” by Time Magazine, Duterte brought law and order to Davao – known in the '70s and '80s as the murder capital of the country – with drastic measures which included, according to various human rights organizations, allowing death squads to operate.
He has served as mayor of Davao since 1988, except a three-year period when he was term-limited, and another three-year period when he served as vice mayor, while his daughter Sara was mayor.
During the election campaign, the Church in the Philippines expressed its opposition to several of Duterte's proposals, such as re-instituting the death penalty.
Duterte admitted to cursing Pope Francis during his January 2015 visit to the Philippines, because he was upset by the traffic jams caused by the Roman Pontiff.
According to the president-elect himself, he said at that time, “Pope, you son of a whore, go home, don't visit us again.”
Duterte said he met with the Archbishop of Davao in December 2015, where he was admonished for his habit of cursing, and lectured on Christian values. He claimed he would curse less, and donate 1,000 Philippine pesos ($21) to Caritas Davao each time he did.
Within hours of his attacks on the Filipino bishops, Duterte announced a call for a three-child policy across the Philippines.
“I only want three children for every family,” Duterte said May 21. “I'm a Christian, but I'm a realist so we have to do something about our overpopulation. I will defy the opinion or belief of the Church.”
He was a supporter of the Reproductive Health Law passed in 2012, and has been supportive of LGBT initiatives in Davao. He has stated his opposition to abortion, however.
Duterte, who was raised Catholic, says he has ceased going to Mass and that he could not be both mayor and a good Catholic: “If I obey the Ten Commandments or listen to priests, I would not be able to do anything as a mayor,” he said in January.
According to the BBC, Duterte “has promised to continue his tough stance as president, but has offered few specific policies.”
Duterte won the Filipino election despite his incendiary comments. He has openly admitted to being a womanizer, and vowed to execute large numbers of criminals and dump their bodies in Manila Bay.
And while campaining in April he commented on the 1989 rape and murder of a Protestant missionary from Australia, which had taken place in Davao, saying: “Was I mad because she was raped? Yes, that's one of the reasons. But she was so beautiful, the mayor should have been first.”
After Duterte's inflammatory comments about the Church, the Archdiocese of Davao responded by saying that it “respects and listens with humility to the views and statements of our incoming President Rodrigo Roa Duterte about the Church, including those that may be difficult to accept and things that may be contrary to our teachings,” according to GMA News, a Filipino television network.
Msgr. Paul Cuison, the Davo archdiocese's spokesman, also said that the archdiocese has “always maintained a peaceful relationship with him and our doors are always open to him,” and added that “we are one with the people of Davao in acknowledging all the good things that he has done especially to the poor and the marginalized.”
But Archbishop Oscar Cruz, the Archbishop Emeritus of Lingayen-Dagupan, responded to Duterte's claims of hypocrisy in the Church by asking for evidence.
“He should say who did something, what was committed and where we can get evidence … He really should expose those sins because the Church will not just accept it. The Church has laws against such sins along with proper punishments,” Archbishop Cruz said, according to The Standard of Manila.
Duterte will be sworn into office June 30 for a six-year term as president.