MANILA - Detained Sen. Leila de Lima on Tuesday criticized President Rodrigo Duterte for his "deliberate and devious effort to discredit" the Catholic Church, a vocal critic of his drug war.
"I find it maliciously and recklessly incendiary for a President to give out books about alleged corruption in the Catholic Church as an official gift to Filipino workers abroad. Instead of sowing hope, he opts to sow intrigues and hatred," De Lima said in a statement.
"It is obvious that he wants to undermine the very institution that continues to speak out against the injustices happening in this country, as well as prompt the citizenry to form negative opinions against the Church."
The senator was referring to Duterte's meeting with the Filipino community in South Korea last June 3.
Duterte called a woman from among the crowd to receive a copy of a book titled "Altar of Secrets," which exposed supposed corruption in the Catholic Church. He then kissed her onstage, an act which drew heavy criticism.
Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque earlier said in a television interview that Duterte’s kiss was just a “playful act,” and showed a “light moment that is very accepted in the culture of Filipinos.”
Duterte said his kiss with the married Filipina in public is part of “biology.”
De Lima called the act "very unpresidential."
"To defend his act of machismo, Duterte referred to the kiss as something that should not be taken seriously because, according to him, it was ‘just a gimmick to make the people happy,’" she said.
"Kakaiba nga naman talaga ang mga ‘gimmick’ ni Duterte na lantarang nagpapakita ng pambabastos sa babae. Ang nakakabahala pa dito ay tila ikinakatuwa pa ito ng mga supporters niya. Sickening!"
De Lima urged the public to "stop tolerating Duterte’s series of attacks on women and some members of the Catholic Church and start standing up for what is right and just."
Manila Archbishop Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle on Tuesday decried the recent spate of killings, including that of several priests, the latest among whom was Rev. Fr. Richmond Nilo from the Diocese of Cabanatuan.