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Duterte: 'I can’t kill priests'

Jennifer Rendon - The Philippine Star
Duterte: 'I canât kill priests'
Members of Lamay para sa Demokrasya Coalition dress as priests and Lady Justice to dramatize the killings of three priests, at a rally outside the Supreme Court in Manila yesterday.
Edd Gumban

ILOILO CITY, Philippines — He may be a lot of things, but President Duterte said he could not kill a priest, a woman or a child.

Speaking before 2,800 delegates of the Philippine Councilors League (PCL) during their meeting at the Iloilo Convention Center Wednesday night, Duterte acknowledged that there seems to be a rift between the Catholic Church and his administration. 

“I don’t want to say the things that I’m not supposed to. There seems to be a lot of killings ng mga pari. Ang gobyerno ay hindi interesado ng pari (of priests. But the government is not interested in priests),” he said, adding in jest that he has no priestly ambitions.

Duterte continued by saying he has the preliminary findings on the killing of Fr. Richmond Nilo, who was gunned down last June 10 in Nueva Ecija while he was preparing to celebrate mass.

“I have kept it to myself,” he said, adding that to release the findings would not be good for the Catholic Church. “If you want me to show it to the Catholic Church, I would show it to everybody.”

Duterte said he could also release the findings on the murder of Fr. Mark Ventura, who was killed last April 29 in Gattaran, Cagayan.

“There’s a matrix there. You could choose your conclusion, whatever it is,” he added.

The President hinted of an undercurrent, which he claimed he doesn’t want. After all, the Catholic Church is not a political party, he added.

“I have nothing against you,” Duterte told Catholic priests.

Nilo was the third priest killed since the murder of Fr. Marcelito Paez last Dec. 5, also in Nueva Ecija.

Another Catholic priest who once served as chaplain of the Philippine National Police, Fr. Rey Urmeneta, survived an assassination attempt last June 6 in Calamba, Laguna.

But while he could not imagine killing priests, Duterte said he has no qualms about killing drug dealers.

The President again took a swipe at former Iloilo City mayor Jed Patrick Mabilog, who has been the object of his tirades for Mabilog’s alleged involvement in illegal drugs.

No case was filed against Mabilog, who is believed to be in self-imposed exile abroad. But the President again threatened Mabilog if the latter should return to his hometown.

Duterte also berated a former Department of Public Works and Highways assistant secretary as well as media moguls.

Duterte’s speech lasted a little over an hour, with the usual mention of the government’s campaign against illegal drugs. Not much was said about the PCL, which was holding its second quarterly national executive officers and national board meeting and the fifth of a series of continuing local legislative education program.

PCL is the association of all elected, appointed or ex-officio members of local legislative councils in cities and municipalities, currently headed by Danilo Dayanghirang and former governor Luis “Chavit” Singson as national chairman and president, respectively.

During the 120th anniversary of the Department of Foreign Affairs last Monday, Duterte warned drug offenders to stop their illegal activities if they believe that life is sacred. He also stressed that he would not allow policemen fighting the war on narcotics to go to jail. 

“If you think that you can get justice simply because you lost somebody who’s a b***s** into drugs, I’m sorry to tell you I will not allow it. I will not really allow it,” the President said. 

Presidential spokesman Harry Roque Jr. clarified that the President’s remark does not cover cases involving alleged police excesses. 

“(Duterte) obviously refers to those cases involving b***s***. So, it does not involve (victims of police excesses),” Roque said at a press briefing. “The President did not mention anything about the judiciary.”

Asked what the President meant by b***s***, Roque replied: “He was referring to those who fought (with law enforcers). How can you provide justice if the ones who were killed really fought back? Or those who were caught in the act of selling drugs and were killed because they fought back? In fact, you cannot seek justice for them because it’s a lawful use of force, right?”

‘PasaLord’

For their part, various religious groups have organized a signature campaign to ask President Duterte to lead a “PasaLord” nationwide interfaith prayer for peace early in December. 

“We humbly request you to lead this prayer at noon in Malacañang on any day between Dec. 1 to 7 and to enjoin every Filipino, wherever they are, to pray at the same time,” lead convenor Lourdes Pimentel said, reading the letter of “PasaLord,” to President. – With Alexis Romero, Evelyn Macairan

PHILIPPINE COUNCILORS LEAGUE

PHILIPPINE NATIONAL POLICE

RICHMOND NILO

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