MANILA -- President Rodrigo Duterte on Sunday renewed his tirades against Catholic priests during a visit to the southern cities of Zamboanga and Isabela, Basilan.
At a campaign rally of administration-backed bets in Zamboanga City, Duterte alleged that priests joined a plot to oust him, some 2 months into his presidency.
He also told members of the clergy to refrain from using the pulpit to berate him.
"When you attack me, do not use the pulpit because that is the extension of the church," he said in a speech.
"Kung gusto mo, lumabas ka, 'Ayaw ko kay Duterte kasi hindi siya marunong, maraming pinatay. Ako bilang Pilipino na pari sa Katoliko, nagko-complain ako.' But do not use it (podium) as --- 'Si Duterte demonyo.' That’s religion eh," he added.
(If you want, go outside and say, 'I do not like Duterte because he is ignorant, he has killed many people. You can complain as a Filipino Catholic priest. But do not use the podium and say, 'Duterte is a demon')
At another campaign event in Isabela, the President dredged up his old accusation that affairs with married women led to the killing of priest Mark Anthony Ventura.
The government, he said, should not be blamed for the crime.
"'Pagka pari pinatay, gobyerno kaagad ang binibintangan kasi anti-mining ‘yan. Pakialam ko kung anti-mining ka, anti-rabies ka o ano," he said.
(When a priest is killed, the government is accused of involvement because he victims is opposes mining. Why would I care if you're anti-mining, anti-rabies or whatever.)
Ventura had just finished celebrating Mass when he was shot dead in Cagayan province in April 2018. He had no enemies and did not receive any death threat, police earlier said.
Duterte, who previously claimed that he was molested by a priest, also noted that Pope Francis last month convened a landmark summit on sexual abuses by the clergy.
"O ‘di sinabi ko noon hinihipo kami. Nagkamali ako?" he said.
(I've said that we were touched inappropriately. Was I wrong?)
Duterte routinely attacks the Church and its teachings. Earlier this year, he drew flak after calling God "stupid."
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.
Opposition Senators Leila de Lima and Risa Hontiveros recently blamed the President for death threats against Caloocan Bishop Pablo Virgilio David, a critic of the government's anti-narcotics drive.