MANILA - President Rodrigo Duterte on Tuesday took another potshot at detained Senator Leila de Lima, who recently received a rosary from Pope Francis.
“Tapos yung isa, yung hambog bigyan pa ng rosary ni Pope,” Duterte said in his speech in Pasay City, referring to De Lima.
Duterte then mentioned a De Lima video, saying the Pope would be shocked and might be removed from the papacy if he watched it.
“So si Pope naman, kaya, hanapan niyo nga ako ng video, ipakita ko kay Pope. Baka magtingin pa si Pope mag-alis pa pagka-Pope yan,” he said.
The President however later said he was just joking in his latest remarks against the senator, considered one of his fiercest political opponent.
“I am joking, Pope but that’s whenever you do a thing, if you criticize me I can criticize you ten times over,” he said.
During a Mass last Sunday at the police Custodial Center where De Lima is jailed for drug-related charges, the senator said she wrote to the Pontiff ahead of her birthday in August, asking for prayers for herself and the victims of extra-judicial killings in the country.
Pope Francis, in turn, sent her a rosary through the Papal Nuncio. The Philippine National Police (PNP) Chaplain handed her the gift last Friday, De Lima said.
"I cannot thank Pope Francis enough for his thoughtfulness. I’m deeply, deeply touched by the Pope’s gesture," De Lima was quoted as saying in a statement from her office.
"This gift will constantly remind me that, despite the political persecution I am experiencing right now at the hands of a vengeful President, I should keep the faith and fight tirelessly for the welfare of the Filipino people."
She also described the rosary as "beautiful," but gave no other details.
The 58-year-old De Lima is accused of accepting drug money from prisoners when she was justice secretary from 2010 and 2015. She is not entitled to bail and, if found guilty, faces a maximum sentence of life imprisonment.
She has denied the allegations, claiming she had been locked up to stop her from criticizing the administration's war on drugs that has seen hundreds of suspected criminals killed.