MANILA - President Rodrigo Duterte on Friday heaped praise on Allah, as he again blasted members of the Catholic clergy.
Speaking before a Muslim-dominated crowd in Cotabato City, Duterte exclaimed: “There is a part of me which is Islam actually.”
“Kaya kung magaway-away kami ng mga buang na pari na ‘yan, hindi man ako Katoliko. Islam man… Totoo,” he added.
(That's why even if I and those crazy priests bicker, I am not Catholic. It's Islam... It's true.)
Duterte said this as he made his pitch for the Bangsamoro Organic Law (BOL), a measure that, if approved by voters in a plebiscite, will establish an autonomous Bangsamoro entity with greater political and economic powers.
As he started his speech, Duterte also exalted Allah, whose goodness and greatness he said allowed the BOL to reach this stage.
“God must be good to us. The fact that we have reached this point after so many years of negotiation and interruptions. We are here. Insha’Allah. God is great. Allahu Akbar,” Duterte said.
“Talaga kung wala si Allah, mahirapan tayo dito (Really, without Allah, it would have been difficult for us). The fact that we were able to go to Congress smoothly, with a minimum of objections and especially those who are not from Mindanao.”
Duterte, born and raised a Catholic, has ruffled the feathers of the Catholic clergy for his violent rhetoric and for questioning Catholic doctrines.
In recent weeks, Duterte has been issuing insults at the clergy, suggesting that bishops should be killed.
Several outspoken prelates have responded to the President.
Balanga, Bishop Ruperto Santos said Duterte’s presidency is a disgrace to the country, while Novaliches Bishop Emeritus Teodoro Bacani challenged the President to roam the streets without security escorts.
Lingayen-Dagupan Archbishop Socrates Villegas, meanwhile, said he was more worried that the President’s attacks on the Catholic Church would impact him more than affect the religious institution.
Duterte has continued to issue tirades against the Church despite a prior dialogue which sought to put a stop to the word war.
The Catholic Church, the country's dominant religion, has demonstrated its influence over Philippine society over the last four centuries, and since 1985, it has been instrumental in the ouster of two presidents.
But since Duterte assumed office in mid-2016, the Catholic church's influence has been tested in the face of the tough-talking leader’s relentless attacks against the institution.
Since assuming the presidency, the President has made the Church one of his favorite punching bags, slamming it for criticizing his policies, such as the controversial war on drugs and his push for the death penalty.
Duterte regularly accuses the Church of hypocrisy, saying it has no right to criticize his policies since it has failed to discipline members of the clergy who committed abuses.
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.