‘Church will oppose harmful Duterte policies, fight disinformation’

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Despite the President’s relentless tirades against the Church for the past three years, Manila Auxiliary Bishop Broderick Pabillo said the Church would continue to speak against the harmful policies of the government and educate people by fighting disinformation.

“Paniniwala ng Simbahan, we should always speak for the truth, we should always know what is good at bahagi ng karanasan ng Simbahan ay persecution,” he told the Varsitarian.

He stressed that the Church also works to uphold the value of life and human rights.

“We have to speak out not probably to convince them, but to tell the people na mali ‘yong mga polisiya,” he said, referring to the extrajudicial killings incited by Duterte’s war on drugs.

Pabillo stressed that the Church promotes “critical cooperation” with the government, adding that dialogue is essential in discerning what is right from wrong.

“Sa mga programa na makakatulong sa mga tao, at magandang programa, we cooperate. Sa mga pangyayari na hindi nakakatulong sa mga tao, we criticize,” he said.

Pabillo lashed out against government officials who are unwilling to listen to criticisms and instead seek to silence the opposition with threats.

“May ibang mga bahagi ng gobyerno na ayaw silang macriticize, ayaw marinig ang mga maling ginagawa nila at hindi naman puwedeng manahimik ang mga pari kapag [mayroong] nakitang mali,” he said.

Msgr. Pedro Quitorio, media office director of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines, said the Church’s must evangelize the faithful and counter fake news.

“Ang bawat isang programa o pangyayari na hindi makatutulong sa taong bayan, lalong-lalo na kapag iyon ay makasisira sa taong bayan, pupunahin ng Simabahan iyon. At all cost, gagawin niya ‘yan kasi it stems from its mission to evangelize,” Quitorio said.

Duterte has a long record of having the Church, bishops and priests as subject of insults for their strong opposition against the government’s controversial policies.

The President has derided the Church as the “most hypocritical institution in the Philippines.” He also claimed that 90 percent of the clergy were gay during a speech in 2018.

In 2019, he called all priests “stupid” for taking up the vow of celibacy and ordered bystanders to kill “useless” bishops.

Gaining notoriety for cursing the Pope during his presidential campaign in 2016, Duterte has also insulted Catholic teachings, calling the doctrine of the Holy Trinity “silly” and the crucifixion of Jesus “unimpressive.”

In a speech in 2018, Duterte mocked the biblical creation story and the doctrine of original sin, calling God “stupid.”

In 2018, Duterte ordered the deportation of Australian missionary sister Patricia Fox for taking part in “partisan political activities” and speaking publicly against human rights violations.

The 72-year-old nun worked as a missionary in the Philippines, assisting poor farmers and indigenous people for 27 years.

Last March 11, Fr. Albert Alejo, Fr. Flavie Villanueva and Fr. Roberto Reyes announced that they had received death threats after the President’s tirades against the clergy.

Lingayen-Dagupan Archbishop Socrates Villegas and Caloocan Bishop Pablo David also received death threats via text messages.

Under the current administration, three priests, Fr. Marcelito Paez,  Fr. Mark Anthony Ventura and Fr. Richmond Nilo were killed in a span of six months.

Philosophy professor Jovito Cariño said Duterte’s attacks against the Church reveals more of the President’s “ignorance” and should be an opportunity for Catholics to learn about their faith.

“Negative remarks should always lead one to self-examination.  We should encourage… the faithful to be really critical and deliberative and to take extra measure to know their faith and their Church better,” he added.

Cariño stressed that the Church must not itself be manipulated by any political power and remain faithful to its stance particularly on human rights and the dignity of human life.

“The Church needs to be partisan… [t]o the cause of the Gospel.  The last thing we want to do is to allow these politicians dictate our becoming political in their own terms.  That would be conceding not only our faith but also our citizenship,” he said.

Despite Duterte’s anti-Catholic remarks in a predominiantly Catholic country, he remains the most trusted government official among Filipinos, with an 85 percent approval rating, according to the June 2019 Pulse Asia survey.

Communications practitioner and lay leader Rommel Lopez urged the Church to first “cleanse her ranks” to maintain its credibility on moral and political issues.

“The bishops cannot attack the policies of Duterte on an ethical and moral ground when they have lost credibility in anything ethical and moral by protecting or being easy on sexual predators and crooks in robes,” he said.

Lopez pointed out that the dwindling popularity of the Church in the country was due to the clergy’s failure to strengthen the faithful’s spiritual life.

“If the Church leaders fail to speak up about the evils in our society, then it has failed in its primary mission… [T]he Church is first and foremost a spiritual organization.  Our clergy must return to managing spiritual matters.  People are hungry for spiritual things,” he explained.

Lopez also called on the faithful to fight disinformation by remaining vigilant with news regarding Church.

“Study the faith. Study the issues. Don’t just believe everything you see or read in social media….[a]rm yourself with the right information in order to counter the negative remarks against the Church,” he told the Varsitarian.

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