Duterte accuses Catholic Church of hypocrisy

Philippines' president-elect Rodrigo Duterte gestures as he speaks during a press conference in Davao City on May 23.
Philippines' president-elect Rodrigo Duterte gestures as he speaks during a press conference in Davao City on May 23.PHOTO: AFP

Philippine President-elect Rodrigo Duterte is again taking on the Catholic Church, accusing it of hypocrisy, threatening to name priests who have fathered children and vowing vigorous promotion of the country's family-planning law.

"You sons of whores, aren't you ashamed? You ask so many favours, even from me," he said, addressing bishops who had criticised him during his campaign but had purportedly been soliciting favours from the government.

Mr Duterte did not say what the bishops had wanted from him. But he recalled in an interview on GMA-News TV last Saturday that ranking clergymen had received sport utility vehicles from former president Gloria Arroyo.

"You call that a separation of the state (and church)? You know the most hypocritical institution? The Catholic Church," he said.

A Senate probe in 2011 found that a priest, a bishop, an archbishop and two dioceses received five vehicles worth about 6.5 million pesos (S$192,000) through a charity fund administered by Mrs Arroyo. Such deals were another form of corruption, said Mr Duterte.

Not stopping there, he said he will reveal the "sins" of priests who have fathered children, and the victims' names and addresses. And he followed that up on Sunday with a call for a three-child policy. Among the country's millions of poor families, the average is four but about a fifth of them have five children.

Reacting to Mr Duterte's tirades, Archbishop Oscar Cruz denied bishops had asked for government favours. He admitted that the Church did get vehicles from Mrs Arroyo, but that these had been used for charity work.

Mr Duterte has clashed repeatedly with church leaders, who have disapproved of his life choices. He has admitted to being an adulterer, bragging in campaign speeches that he has two wives and two girlfriends he houses in rented flats.

The 71-year-old former mayor of Davao had previously boasted of links to vigilante death squads that killed more than a thousand suspected criminals in a brutal campaign he waged on crime in the city.

He has vowed to kill more, now that he has been elected president.

Mr Duterte caused outrage in the church hierarchy in December after a rambling and obscenity-filled speech cursing Pope Francis.

Mr Duterte says he is a "Catholic on leave" and has taken counsel instead from non-Catholic pastor Apollo Quiboloy, head of the Davao-based Kingdom of Jesus Christ.

Four in five Filipinos are Catholics but the Church's influence among the country's 100 million people has dipped since the influential Cardinal Jaime Sin died in 2005.

The Catholic Church is seen losing even more ground in its bitter fight against a government-sanctioned family-planning scheme.

Congress passed a law in December 2012, despite opposition from church leaders, allowing public health centres to hand out condoms and pills, and teach sex education in schools.

"I only want three children for every family," Mr Duterte said in Davao City on Sunday. "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."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 24, 2016, with the headline 'Duterte accuses Catholic Church of hypocrisy'. Print Edition | Subscribe