Duterte apologizes: I can never curse my pope
(The Philippine Star) - December 1, 2015 - 9:00am

DAVAO CITY, Philippines – Mayor Rodrigo Duterte yesterday apologized but denied cursing Pope Francis in his speech during the proclamation rally of Partido Demokratikong Pilipino-Laban (PDP-Laban).

Duterte explained he was cursing at the government’s incompetence in not handling the traffic jams during the papal visit in Metro Manila in January, not the pontiff.

“I sincerely express sadness and regret that the part of my speech mentioning Pope Francis in relation to the monstrous traffic gridlock in January came across as being disrespectful to his Holiness Pope Francis. It was farthest from my mind and was never my intention,” Duterte said in a statement.

“I acknowledge that I should have explained better my point on the traffic gridlock. My strong statement on the incompetence of those in government to address the traffic problem was my expression of anger borne out of the helplessness of the millions of commuters suffering from this daily gridlock,” he added.

Duterte also said that should the Vatican say that he should drop out of the presidential race in the May 2016 elections, he would immediately withdraw his candidacy.

During the proclamation rally Monday, Duterte complained in front of his supporters about the traffic jams during the papal visit, saying he was stuck in traffic for five hours from the hotel to the airport.

Cayetano, supporters defend Duterte

Vice presidential candidate Sen. Alan Peter Cayetano defended his running mate, saying the mayor’s statements were taken out of context. Monsignor Paul Cuison, vicar general of the Archdiocese of Davao, also defended the mayor for the same reason.

Cayetano said that those who know Duterte can attest that he has a deep relationship with God. “He doesn’t talk about it publicly but I know this personally, having discovered this through my constant engagement with him.”

Duterte’s daughter Sara admitted that her father doesn’t have finesse.

“Rest assured, he is intelligent enough for the highest position. Unfortunately, he does not have the finesse of Lady Diana. In essence, he is a lawyer with manners of a street thug,” she said.

Cayetano explained why Duterte is tough talking.

“Mayor Duterte’s environment and experience brought him up speaking tough, rough and uncensored. The mayor came from a time and place of great conflict and suffering. While the mayor’s words and statements were stronger than what is deemed socially accepted by some, and may rub some the wrong way, the most important thing is he is authentic and his heart is in the right place. He is who he is. He will always fight for the people and never allow them to suffer,” Cayetano said.

Cayetano reminded the public that the national debate should focus on how to change the country for the better, “not to change him (Duterte).”

Sen. Aquilino Pimentel III, PDP-Laban president, also apologized in behalf of the party and sought understanding.

“I wanted to apologize if there were people who were hurt or did not like some things he said because that’s the local campaign style. In local politics, the tougher you are, the better,” he explained. – With Marvin Sy, Mike Frialde, Jerry Dureza

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