After 'sons of whores' comment, Philippines' Duterte says he will defy Church with three-child policy

Philippines' president-elect Rodrigo Duterte (centre) speaking to military and police officials at a hotel in Davao City, on May 15, 2016.
Philippines' president-elect Rodrigo Duterte (centre) speaking to military and police officials at a hotel in Davao City, on May 15, 2016. PHOTO: AFP

MANILA (REUTERS) - Philippine President-elect Rodrigo Duterte said he will defy the Roman Catholic Church and seek to impose a three-child policy, putting him on a new collision course with the bishops a day after he called them "sons of whores".

The southern mayor has yet to be declared the May 9 poll winner, but an unofficial vote count by an election commission-accredited watchdog showed him ahead over his four rivals, three of whom conceded defeat. Mr Duterte assumes office on June 30.

Mr Duterte's often outrageous comments have won him huge support and his tirades about killing criminals and a joke about a murdered rape victim do not appear to have dented his popularity in the largely Catholic country.

"I only want three children for every family," he said on Sunday (May 22) in Davao City. "I'm a Christian, but I'm a realist so we have to do something with our overpopulation. I will defy the opinion or the belief of the Church."

About 80 per cent of the Philippines' 100 million population are Catholics, the largest concentration of any Asian country, who oppose abortion and contraception.

On Saturday, he criticised the Church as the "most hypocritical institution", meddling in government policies and said some bishops were enriching themselves at the expense of the poor.

"You sons of whores, aren't you ashamed? You ask so many favours, even from me," Mr Duterte said in an interview broadcast by TV station GMA.

Monsignor Oliver Mendoza, spokesman for the Archdiocese of Lingayen, whose head is the president of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines, said the Church respected Mr Duterte's opinion but that it would continue to speak against government policies that are contrary to Church teaching.

"Because if we fail to do that, if we close our eyes, if we close our lips, we close our ears, what will be the role of the Church?" he said.

Political analysts said they were not surprised at Mr Duterte's statements because some bishops spoke out against him during the election campaign.

"Like most liberal, secular politicians, Duterte is a deist," said Mr Joselito Zulueta of the University of Santo Tomas."This in itself is a self-serving position conceived out of human conceit. He will do as he pleases except when he's stopped by public criticism."

He said Mr Duterte's government was expected to clash more with the Catholic Church not only on population issues, but on the restoration of death penalty, legalisation of divorce and planned distribution of contraceptives.