MANILA – Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte apologized to the public after coming under fire for not sparing Pope Francis in an expletive-filled speech on Monday.
In a Facebook post, Duterte's staunch supporter, former North Cotabato mayor Manny Piñol posted a short message from Duterte addressing those who felt offended by his speech.
''I can never curse my Pope. I was cursing at incompetence. If it was taken by some in that light, I sincerely apologize. I will continue to curse so our suffering nation takes action,'' Piñol quoted Duterte as saying in his Facebook post.
Duterte drew flak among netizens after he cursed at Pope Francis after the latter's visit in Manila back in January caused traffic jams.
''Gusto kong tawagan, 'Pope, p***** ina ka, umuwi ka na." Duterte said during his speech on Monday at the Century Park hotel where he was formally declared PDP-Laban standard-bearer.
While Duterte's quip drew laughter from some of his supporters in the audience, some on social media were not happy with his verbal bomb.
In an ambush interview at a radio station in Makati City Duterte claimed that it was not Pope Francis whom he cursed at, but the way the government handled the security preparations that led to closure of some roads.
Duterte said he peed in his car after being stuck for hours in traffic during the Pope's visit. This, he said, was evidence of incompetency on the part of the government.
"I never said p**** mo Pope. I said 't****, huwag ka na pumunta dito,'" he clarified.
In the same Facebook post, Piñol defended Duterte, saying while the statement ''sounded awkward, it was obvious that the use of the cuss word which is a common street lingo was not directed at Pope Francis.''
''It was merely an expression that comes almost naturally from Duterte's mouth and peppers almost all of his public discourses,'' Piñol added.
''Yesterday, he used it in jest to express his exasperation and disappointment over the inability of government to address Metro Manila's traffic problem."
Despite yesterday's incident, Piñol said he believes Duterte, being a ''devout Catholic…would never show irreverence towards the Prince of his church, the Roman Catholic church."
Piñol added that he expects Duterte's political opponents to exploit the issue.
''At the end of the day, however, the whole country would still have to answer the question: Who could protect the country from the evils of crime, drugs and corruption?" he said.
''One flawed statement cannot override the desire of people for real 'Change' in this country.''