Philippine priest says Duterte's win is reminder 'people want change'

IMAGE: CNS photo/Alex Hofford, EPA

By Simone Orendain

Philippines (CNS) — President-elect Rodrigo Duterte’s win in May 9 national
elections was “a strong reminder that people want change,” said Father Anton
Pascual, president of Radio Veritas, the country’s largest Catholic radio

Pascual told Catholic News Service May 11 that he had “high hopes” Duterte
would crack down on corruption, criminality, “unchecked
terrorism” and drug pushing, and he suggested he start with a “big fish”
corrupt official to set an example.

has a charism for identifying “with people’s needs and aspirations. He
verbalizes the language and longings of the people to cleanse society or reduce
substantially the social ills,” Father Pascual said.

Filipinos voted for 18,000 offices, from
president to local neighborhood councilors. Some
Catholic leaders were reserved about Duterte, the Davao City major known for
tough talk. Throughout
the campaign, Duterte said he would rid the country of criminals within six
months of taking office. At times he had said he would do this legally, but at
other times he did not include that caveat. 

In his last campaign speech, two
days before the elections, Duterte again threatened to kill drug pushers, armed
robbers and other “loser” criminals, telling hundreds of thousands of
supporters in Manila, “Forget the laws of human rights.”

Antonio Ledesma of Cagayan de Oro commended calls for
“reconciliation and healing” among the candidates after campaigns that saw name-calling and allegations flying against one another.

The archbishop told Catholic News Service the archdiocese honors the results of the
presidential race. 

on the other hand, we are also asking everyone to be sure that all the rule of
law and the constitutional processes are followed,” said Archbishop Ledesma. “Because
this is one controversial point that it’s still not clear how the president
will carry on his promises. But we are sure that he has already made statements
that he will abide by the rule of law.”

the elections, Archbishop Ledesma highlighted a Human Rights Watch report that
tracked the more than 1,400 media-reported extrajudicial killings in Davao City.
The archbishop warned against supporting a candidate who espoused the “culture
of death.”

Father Joel Tabora, president of Ateneo de Davao University, tweeted, “I
look forward to President-elect Duterte’s leadership in forging lasting peace
for Mindanao.”

71-year old Duterte has been a strong proponent of giving Muslim separatists in
the country’s southwest their own state.

was forged in 2014 between the current administration of President Benigno
Aquino and the largest rebel group, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, in a bid
to end four decades of conflict that saw more than 120,000 people dead. But the
peace process hit a major stumbling block after a clash between the rebels and
special police forces in January 2015 left more than 60 dead. The incident
sowed distrust on both sides and made difficult the passage of a measure that
would create an autonomous Muslim majority region.

In a May 9 pastoral letter, issued as votes were being counted,
Archbishop Socrates Villegas of Lingayen-Dagupan, Philippine bishops’ conference
president, said the church would not back off from “reminding (Christ’s)
disciples of what fidelity to him — in all things, including political life —

The archbishop said the church was praying for wisdom and
discernment of God’s will for those who won office. He said they should
remember that God had a hand in their victories and that God calls public
officials “to service and to care for the weakest and the most distressed
in our midst,” particularly children in need and exploited women.

“The greatest promise the church can offer any government is
vigilant collaboration, and that offer, we make now. We will urge our people to
work with the government for the good of all, and we shall continue to be
vigilant so that ever so often we may speak out to teach and to prophesy, to
admonish and to correct — for this is our vocation,” the letter said.

During the campaign, Duterte told the bishops’ conference
to quit criticizing his ways.

However, in his letter, Archbishop Villegas said: “Several
critical, even spiteful, voices have asked us to desist from
“interfering” in politics. We cannot. We do not aspire after office
and we have sought none. We do not even impose upon the Catholic faithful a set
of anointed candidates. But it would be a denial of Christ’s universal lordship
were we to desist from reminding his disciples of what fidelity to him — in
all things, including political life — demands.”

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