Duterte denies persecuting priests

President Rodrigo Duterte denied on Wednesday that he was persecuting priests with his verbal attacks against the clergy.

At the oath-taking of newly promoted officials of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) he said he did not say anything against Catholic priests.

“Nabasa ko sa ano, ‘Stop persecuting priests.’ Wala naman ako sinabi. I did not,” he said.

Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque also earlier explained that the President’s “verbal attacks” against the Catholic Church has nothing to do with the growing number of priests that have been killed since December 2017.

READ: Palace: No link between Duterte’s attacks and priests’ killings

Roque issued the statement a day after Archbishop Socrates “Soc” Villegas said assassins could have been “emboldened” by President Duterte’s verbal attacks against the clergy.

The President had earlier presented a matrix of the supposed illicit affairs of slain Cagayan priest Fr. Mark Anthony Ventura, which reportedly show photos of him with eight women.

“May binigay sa amin ang pulis. Sinupress ko. Kasi hindi maganda para sa Katoliko. E babae e, pareho kami ng isyu na babae nung pari na yun. Babae. (The police gave us something, which I suppressed because it’s not good for Catholics. We have the same issue – women),” he said.

However, he said he would expose it if the Church would continue to criticize him.

“Alam mo ang pari is no better than me. Ang mga pari diyan tig-dalawa ang asawa (A priest is no better than me. Priests have two wives),” he added. /ee

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