IT CAME as no surprise for Filipino Church leaders and clergymen to receive death threats under the regime of a madman living along the banks of Pasig River with its industrial effluents and septic waste, objective correlatives to the foul speech and gutter-minded resident of Malacañang.

Even when he was yet to be inaugurated
president in 2016, Rodrigo Duterte had the totally bad form of inveighing against the clergy such as his cursing of Pope Francis whose visit of Manila in 2015 allegedly stalled him in traffic.

His envoy, Jesus Dureza, later apologized to the Pope, but that set the pattern that was to emerge now—of the President making foul remarks against the Church for real or imagined wrongs, then apologizing for them but later repeating the same offensive remarks, to confuse the public and for him to get away with murder.

Presidential behavior has so deteriorated that lately he has called for the killing of the bishops.

His spokesman may try to appease the clergy and the public and explain that the President’s remarks have been misinterpreted, but it is only wise for ecclesiastics and religious to view them as setting the stage for the random ambush and assassination by Duterte followers usually suffering from sub-level IQ and cretinism to take the President’s word for truth and start shooting down men and women of the cloth.

Those who refuse to accept this, that the words of leaders have a trickle-down murderous effect, are surely those who blindly support the President and find his antics “cute.” Perhaps they are not aware that St. Thomas Becket was killed by Henry II’s supporters when the monarch uttered the infamous line: “Who will rid me of this meddlesome priest?”

What ails campus theater in UST?

In the present political atmosphere in
the country, we find the same scenario with a demagogue of a president and a clergy speaking out against his inhumane policies and his outright policy of summarily executing drug addicts, mostly from the poor sectors of society.

The common denominator among clergy such as Caloocan Bishop Pablo Virgilio David and religious such as deported Australian Sister Patricia Fox: outspokenness against the human rights violations under the present administration. All of these are on top of the three priests that have been killed last year within the span of six months that have yet to be solved.

But this culture of threatening and discrediting Church leaders is expected to continue as clergymen protest against against presidential impunity, especially since the Filipino people, majority of whom are Catholics, stand with their bishops and priests.

It is a shame that this leader continues to be idolized despite his government’s failure to solve the numerous problems that continue to plague the nation and his ignominious achievement of runaway inflation and worsening poverty because of his move to increase taxes and pay for his self-serving decision to double the salaries of the police thugs and summary executioners who implement his genocidal anti-drug policy, and of the military who, despite having millions in intelligence budget and the warning from the United States, failed to stop the radical Islamic State and Maute rebels from laying siege on Marawi.

But Duterte has been able to hold on to power because of the support of Filipinos who are Catholics in name but not in reality. For a country that has taken pride from being a Catholic nation, it is shocking that public satisfaction and approval of Duterte has remained high.

What ails campus theater in UST?

This is a manifestation of the split-level Christianity of most Filipinos: they’re only Sunday Christians (and only for an hour when they attend Mass) and for the rest of the week, quite their average selves as heathens and savages like Duterte.

Three-time UST rector Fr. Rolando de la Rosa, O.P. was correct to lament the lack of public outcry over clergy killings and attacks.

“What is more shocking than the killing of priests is the absence of a massive public indignation regarding this considering that there are approximately 80 million Catholics,” De la Rosa said. “There was a time when active support for the Church and respect for priests were hallmarks of Catholic identity.”

The clergy and religious console the bereaved of those killed in the anti-drug wars; they risk life and limb every time they speak for human rights.

The Church, fully aware of her mission, will not be silenced, and the threats on her people will only strengthen her resolve. But it will take more than just thoughts and prayers for presidential attacks—whether rhetorical or real—to stop, so the faithful must come to the defense of the clergy and religious.

But sadly, it is the clergy and religious that are crucified by the same people they serve.

In 2015, millions of Filipinos went out to the streets to catch a glimpse of Pope Francis in his visit to the Philippines. But in those millions were also those who would eventually elect Rodrigo Duterte a few months later, despite his admission of summarily executing people he personally judged to be criminals when he was mayor of Davao City, known then as now for its death squads.

What ails campus theater in UST?

These people who welcomed both the Pope and the head of Davao Murder Inc. would be like the Jews who welcomed Christ to Jerusalem on Palm Sunday, but would turn against him later and call for his death.

Today, the people who justify the anti-drug summary executions and killings and support Duterte’s ridiculing of the Church and her leaders, clergy, and religious and even calling for their killing are no different from those who urged Pontius Pilate 2,000 years ago—“Crucify him!”


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