EDITORIAL - Church could lose more vs. Duterte
Marvin Sy (The Freeman) - May 26, 2016 - 12:00am

The Roman Catholic Church in the Philippines stands to lose more than it can possibly gain in an ugly face-off with incoming president Rodrigo Duterte. The tough-talking outgoing mayor of Davao City has led a colorful life that is largely an open book. What secrets, dark or otherwise, that may have eluded public scrutiny are not likely to bring down easily a man that an 80 percent Catholic nation entrusted with an overwhelming mandate in an election widely-regarded as credible.

Not that Duterte is impervious or invincible to brickbats. But he is more likely to survive a gutter brawl than an institution increasingly under fire for its own closely-held dark secrets, many of which have driven three successive popes to make public apologies – great personal sacrifices that have never seemed to result in contrite hearts within the great many who call themselves shepherds of the flock.

It is not clear at what point Duterte decided to embark on a collision course with the Catholic Church, using expletives to describe certain bishops and threatening not just to expose their alleged sins and abuses but to institute government-sponsored programs once he assumes office that run directly counter to many of its teachings. Duterte, after all, is known to simply respond to questions that are thrown at him by media

It is also not clear if the brewing antagonism has anything to do with his personal friendship with the leader of a Christian sect who apparently helped him tremendously during the campaign. That friendship has allegedly experienced some ruffled feathers recently and while both parties have publicly issued denials, it is quite possible an attempt at appeasement is being made at the expense of some bishops.

Not that the bishops have not been asking for it. In an ill-disguised attempt to influence the outcome of the presidential election, the top official of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines issued a pastoral letter just before the May 9 political exercise asking voters not to vote for a candidate who, while unnamed, everybody understood was Duterte as described in the letter.

The Catholic Church can take up the challenge of Duterte, marshal the faithful against any or all of his programs. But as had been flatly proven by the bishops' pastoral letter, there are certain initiatives that just cannot prick the bubble that Duterte is currently in. When Duterte amassed a lead of six million votes over the apparent preferred choice of the Church, the rejection cannot by anything else but resounding and stinging.

At this or any other point, the Church cannot afford having Duterte fire broadsides against it. Not only does Duterte probably have the right ammunition to unleash, more importantly he has the willing carelessness to unleash them. The only way the Church can fight Duterte is not to fight him at all but to leave him alone. Duterte sure has the volatility to be a danger to his own self.

ANDRES BAUTISTA
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