Two opposition senators on Wednesday blamed President Rodrigo Duterte for the death threats against Caloocan Bishop Pablo Virgilio David after the President made similar threats in the past.
David, a vocal critic of the government's drug war, said he has been receiving death threats from unknown people since two weeks ago.
The threats came right after the President said bishops are "better off dead" and even hinted that a certain Bishop "David" was stealing donations.
“Itong mga obispo ninyo, patayin ninyo. Walang silbi iyang mga gagong iyan. All they do is criticize,” Duterte said in a speech in Malacañang.
Last Monday, the President appealed to the public not to harm leaders of the Catholic Church, despite repeatedly urging drug addicts and criminals to maul, kill and steal from moneyed bishops.
In a statement, Senator Leila de Lima blamed Duterte for the death threat against Bishop David.
"The Catholic clergy was never threatened with harm by anybody until Duterte said that they are better off dead. No one in this Catholic country, whether politician or ordinary citizen, ever had in his agenda the killing of bishops and priests, until Duterte started it. Only Duterte, among all the inhabitants of this country, said that the bishops deserve to be robbed and killed. The death threat came from him. His warning now that they should not be harmed can only be addressed to him," she said.
She added: "Duterte is not fooling anyone with his Pontius Pilate act. As it is for the victims of the drug war, when men of the cloth become the targets of Duterte's assassins, it will be no joking matter."
Sen. Risa Hontiveros said the threats against Bishop David are a "direct result of the same threats that President Rodrigo Duterte himself made against Bishop Ambo last year."
"Not even President Duterte's sudden turnaround will absolve him of his role in this matter. This is what happens when you have a leader who encourages violence through his words," she said.
The Palace has refused to take the blame for death threats against Church officials, saying Duterte's perceived attacks were merely "hyperbole."
Under Duterte, several priests have been killed by unknown assailants, and critics say the alleged climate of impunity under the current administration has emboldened the killers.
Duterte routinely attacks the Church and its teachings. Earlier this year, he drew flak after calling God "stupid."