MANILA (UPDATE) - A Catholic bishop has fired back after President Rodrigo Duterte issued another violent rhetoric against the Philippine clergy.
In an interview with Church-run Radio Veritas, Balanga Bishop Ruperto Santos said Duterte's presidency is not only a disappointment, but a disgrace to the country.
"His presidency is disappointment and disgrace to our country. It is known as ‘kill, kill, kill’", the bishop said.
Santos was reacting to Duterte's recent attacks against Filipino prelates, saying "tambays" or bystanders should kill or steal from "rich bishops."
Last December, Duterte again lashed out at Catholic bishops, saying they are better off dead because they are useless.
Malacañang defended the president, saying the firebrand leader was only using figure of speech when he ordered "tambays" or bystanders to kill or steal from rich bishops.
Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo also said that the president was merely retaliating against the clergy's criticisms of Duterte's leadership.
But Bishop Santos insisted that the president must be criticized and urged those who are close to the chief executive to correct his violent rhetoric.
"It is high time that those who are closed to him must correct him, advise him of good manners because his words instills hatred and creates division and torments fear," the bishop added.
Santos also lamented how Duterte's supporters laughed at his violent threats.
"And his ‘fans’ consider his murderous words as a mere joke! Is it a joke to advise people to kill? There should be a mass movement among decent Filipinos to make him desist from speaking like a devil. Let us do something to make him stop this evil!" he said.
In a statement on Tuesday, Panelo said Santos’ statement is saddening, especially since it came “from a man of the cloth.”
“The President’s most recent approval and trust ratings show that the Filipino people whom PRRD is duty-bound to serve and protect is highly appreciative of the Chief Executive and his brand of leadership. It appears that the good Bishop is uninformed or is ignoring the survey results. Like the Bishop, the President is imperfect , but unlike him PRRD looks at the innate goodness of man. The President who could have preferred retirement and enjoy its bliss opted to rise to the challenge of the times and at the commencement of his presidency has waged a war against all fronts of illegality in the country,” Panelo said.
“What is a disgrace is when a member of the clergy uses unsavory language against President Rodrigo Roa Duterte who only fulfills and complies with his constitutional mandate to lead the government in serving the Filipinos and protecting them from what bedevils our society. We find it very unfortunate that Bishop Santos fails to follow the teaching of Christ that if someone throws a stone at you, throw a piece of bread at him in response.”
Panelo said instead of lambasting the President, Santos should instead pray for the President, “the way we pray for the Bishop’s enlightenment, that PRRD may run the affairs of the country well instead of lambasting him."
"As we repeatedly said, we are all parts of one whole, the success of President Duterte is the success of the whole nation.”
The word war between the president and Filipino bishops stretched way back from the 2016 presidential campaign.
It intensified amid the government's bloody war against illegal drugs which saw thousands of individuals killed in police operations alone.
Personalities from both sides have tried brokering a peace accord, but even after a meeting in 2018 with fellow Davaoeño Archbishop Romulo Valles, president of Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines, the exchange of tirades between Duterte and the prelates continues. - with a report from Dharel Placido, ABS-CBN News