Some bishops have campaigned against incoming president Rodrigo Duterte.
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Ateneo de Davao president to Duterte: Don't be a monster
Alexis Romero ( - May 25, 2016 - 7:13pm

DAVAO CITY, Philippines – Do not be a monster. 

This was the advice of a prominent Jesuit priest and academician to outgoing Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte, who will assume as the 16th president of the Philippines on June 30.

Ateneo de Davao University president Fr. Joel Tabora said everyone is vulnerable to becoming a dictator or even a monster when given power.

“We want to support you but be the person we see in you. Don't be a monster. Don't be this person that has been referred to as the dark side of Digong (Duterte’s nickname),” Tabora said in an academic forum on Wednesday.  

“I hope that he remains true to his word that he will respect the laws of the land, he will not work outside of the law, that he will not work with death squads on a national scale and therefore become a dictator that in hubris, in excess may become a monster,” he added.

Tabora was alluding to allegations that Duterte had maintained death squads that executed criminals and members of drug syndicates in this city. Duterte has denied links to the vigilante groups but claimed to have killed 1,700 people.

“Once you feel you don’t need law and you have so much followers that power becomes very dangerous as we’ve seen in the past,” Tabora said. 

“Everybody is vulnerable to that even me. Give me absolute power and I’ll be vulnerable. That’s why we have separation of power and he (Duterte) is respecting that,” he added.

During the campaign period, Duterte’s rivals warned that he is capable of establishing a dictatorship, with one of them even calling him the “greatest threat to democracy.” Duterte, however, gave assurance that he would follow the law and respect human rights if he becomes president.

Rift with Catholic Church

Tabora is also optimistic that Duterte and the Catholic Church can patch things up despite their differences over family planning and death penalty.

He said the incoming president and the bishops can work together on common advocacies like helping the poor, protecting the environment and promoting peace and development.

“If there should be dialogue between Digong and the bishops, it should be how we can best help each other to serve the poor, how can the Church, under this circumstances, complement the efforts of the president who wish to serve the poor,” Tabora said.

“Let is really get involved because finally, we feel there is someone who can really bring change in Mindanao,” he added.

Duterte has been issuing harsh statements against the Catholic Church, which he called “the most hypocritical institution” because of its opposition to artificial family planning methods. Duterte, who claimed to believe in God but not in religion, said the Church should apologize to the people for the abuses of priests and its supposed failure to help the poor.

Some bishops have campaigned against Duterte, urging voters to examine him closely due to his vulgarity, his supposed links to extrajudicial killings and alleged adulterous practices.

“Is this the leadership by example that Mayor Duterte excites in us? Is this the leadership by example that makes a public official deserving of the title ‘Honorable?’” a statement posted on the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines website before the May 9 polls read.

Tabora said the rift between Duterte and the bishops was “unfortunate.” He, however, believes that the incoming president could prod the Church to reflect on its practices and its shortcomings.

“I think that the position that Mr. Duterte is taking can be interpreted to be a powerful prophetic position to try to help the Church also to reflect on its own ability to be the Church of the poor it has for many years proclaimed itself to be,” the priest said.

“He (Duterte) is saying I’m not a saint but you are not saints either so I think he is saying I have a love for the poor. Maybe instead of knocking me down, maybe we should help work together because if you continue to knock me down, I’ll continue to knock you down more,” he added. 

Asked to comment on his foul language, Tabora said it has always been Duterte’s style to use “colorful words.”

“I think this is his style. This is the way. He’s been in politics in the past 20 years. I don’t think it’s realistic I think he is trying to take the expletives away from his language and I don’t think it has worked so I think people are going to just accept that he is expressing himself diffrent from politicians of the past,” Tabora said.

“I think beyond the colorful words we get from Mayor Digong and his statements about his expletives, I think Digong has shown himself to be a man of the poor. I think that was what the people admired on him so greatly,” he added.

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