MANILA – Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has launched a tirade at priests and bishops critical of his crackdown on illegal drugs, accusing them of homosexuality, corruption and child abuse.
President Duterte is furious about concerns by the Catholic church of alleged extrajudicial killings during his war on drugs, and lambasted clergymen for denouncing him instead of using their influence to help end addiction.
His rebuke came a day after one of Duterte’s top advisers met Pope Francis at the Vatican. Jesus Dureza said the pontiff had told him he would bless the Philippines, and “also bless your president”.
In a speech to police officers, the firebrand leader of one of only two majority Catholic Asian countries challenged the church to a “showdown” and threatened to expose priests and bishops for a litany of abuses.
“Most people here are Catholic. If you are a good priest, make them understand that they will die,” he said, referring to drug users.
“You criticise the police, you criticise me. For what? You have the money. You are all crazy … when we were making confessions to you, we were being molested. They are touching us. What is your moral ascendancy, religion? What is the meaning of it?”
The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines made no immediate comment about the attack.
Dureza was at the Vatican to deliver a letter from the president, thanking the pope for his 2015 visit to the Philippines.
Duterte had famously called the pope a “son of a bitch” for causing traffic chaos. He later apologised, saying his remark was aimed at incompetent officials.
The pontiff’s blessing did not stop Duterte chiding the church, which is among a few institutions willing to oppose his war on drugs.
Police figures show 7,042 people have been killed during the campaign, 2,250 in anti-drugs operations. Most of the other deaths were still being investigated.
Source: The Guardian