MANILA - Malacañang on Wednesday said Novaliches Bishop Emeritus Teodoro Bacani’s “friendly challenge” to President Rodrigo Duterte to roam the streets without security escorts “not only is outright silly and childish but absurd as well.”
Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo said Duterte would have accepted Bacani’s challenge, but that this is simply impossible due to the need to secure him.
“PRRD would have loved to accept the challenge but security protocols are observed for his protection as President – a position carrying awesome responsibilities requiring him to attend to the problems of the nation. A position that the good bishop has never held and might never assume in his lifetime,” Panelo said in a statement.
“The President does not have to prove anything about his being a courageous and selfless public servant. Such gutsy reputation precedes him and is one of the reasons which enthralled the Filipino masses who longed for a strong and decisive action man as their country’s top leader which they [did not experience] with his predecessor.”
Panelo said Bacani should be informed that Duterte, as long-time Davao City mayor, patrolled the city alone sometimes.
He also cited a hostage-taking incident at the Davao Penal Colony in 1989, where Duterte agreed to take the place of one hostage.
“No person in this country has ever done offering his life in exchange for the freedom of a hostage victim except this President,” Panelo said.
Bacani issued his challenge to Duterte in response to the chief executive’s order to bystanders to kill or steal from rich bishops.
Malacañang has repeatedly defended the President’s violent rhetoric towards members of the clergy, saying it was just his way of conveying his message. It has also expressed dissatisfaction with priests and bishops “using the pulpit” to criticize the President.
Tense exchanges between Duterte and some prelates have continued despite a July 2018 meeting between the President and his fellow Davaoeño, Archbishop Romulo Valles, president of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines.
Panelo said the President remains open to talks with the Church hierarchy, after Senate President Vicente Sotto III said he was willing to mediate between the two sides.