MANILA—President Rodrigo Duterte on Saturday told his critics not to use God's name in vain against him, citing the separation of Church and State.
In a speech in Davao City, Duterte said Filipinos can criticize him "with all [their] heart's content" but said those in religious sects must not involve God.
"Pero when you are a religious, you have to be something of a neutral dito sa faith mo and the government. Because it is really the concept of a Republican system that there is a separation of Church and State. So, when you criticize me, do not use the platform of God," he said.
"Do not do it, do not take God’s name in vain because pag-resbak ko, makasali ko na 'yung Panginoong Diyos. It’s fundamental, it’s almost basic. There is really a clear cut between religion and governance. You cannot use God to criticize me."
Tension has been high between Duterte and the Catholic hierarchy and other Christian groups of late after the President called God “stupid” and raised questions about certain Church doctrines and beliefs, such as the story of creation, the concept of heaven and hell, and the Last Supper.
Reeling from the outrage over his controversial remark, the President formed a team to hold a dialogue with leaders of the Catholic Church and other Christian groups.
Duterte is set to meet Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines president Romulo Valles on Monday in an attempt to ease the friction between the government and the Church.