PALACE BLAMES ‘DETRACTORS’ FOR CALOOCAN BISHOP’S DEATH THREATS
MANILA — Detractors of President Rodrigo R. Duterte are to blame for the alleged threats received by Caloocan Bishop Pablo Virgilio “Ambo” David since they would “manipulate” the President’s jokes to be taken seriously, Malacañang said on Thursday.
“If there is one to blame, it is the critics and detractors of the President and this administration who have been constantly painting a different picture by manipulating PRRD’s statements and making them appear to look bad and malicious,” Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo said in a statement.
Panelo defended Duterte anew following criticisms that his strong statements against the Catholic Church, including joking about robbing and killing of bishops living in luxury, are what caused the death threats.
He insisted that Duterte’s negative remarks against the Church “were done in jest” and that the opposition was again attempting to “bespatter the President’s popularity” by blaming him for Fr. David’s alleged death threats.
“To reiterate what I previously said, a joke is a joke is a joke. The President’s remarks on some members of the clergy were done in jest or were made using figure of speech or hyperbole,” Panelo said.
Panelo stressed the opposition meant to “confuse” the public by converting the President’s jokes into marching orders to damage his reputation.
“A joke perceived to be a joke by Filipinos are converted by these haters into a grave and serious marching order so as to confuse the public and at the same time put themselves in a position where they can criticize the President,” he said.
He noted that grave threats could even be done by pranksters, or by anti-Duterte trolls or by the personal enemies of the bishop.
However, he said, Filipinos are already used to Duterte’s “out-of-the-box” style of delivering messages and know when he is joking or not, since this has been his way even before he assumed the presidency.
“The Filipino people know and approve this unorthodox and out-of-the-box style of the Chief Executive in delivering his message to them,” Panelo said.
“He is a natural teaser. His audience responds animatedly to his comedic utterances. The public knows when the President is serious and they also understand when he only means to be comical,” he added.
Panelo, meanwhile, reassured members of the Church that the President meant no harm in his jokes and that the government will continue to ensure their protection.
“Anyone who attempts at harming him will have the full force of the law to contend with,” he said.
“Let the members of the Catholic hierarchy be assured that the President means no harm. They need not be afraid as we are one with them in their mission in thwarting evil,” he added.
The spokesperson said that only the criminals, the corrupt, the evildoers, the scoundrels, the terrorists, and the drug lords and pushers should be afraid.
He further said that the President is serious in providing Filipinos with safer, more comfortable lives.
“Nothing in this world will stop the President from fulfilling his constitutional task of serving and protecting the nation from destruction or dismemberment coming from whatever sources,” Panelo said.
Earlier, Duterte himself said he would not allow any harm done on priests and bishops, saying those who attempted to do so would have to face him.
“‘Wag ninyong gawain ‘yan. Kasi ‘pag ginawa ninyo, ako mismo ang kalaban ninyo. ‘Yung biro man lang ‘yung sinabi ko na — baka totohanan ninyo talaga na (Don’t do it because if you do it, you’ll have to face me. I was just joking about what I said. You might be taking it seriously),” he said during the League of Municipalities of the Philippines (LMP) general assembly on February 26.
“Priests are not included sa pulitika (in politics),” he added.
David recently confirmed that he has been receiving text messages saying he was next in line for execution.
He reportedly skipped the Ka Pepe Diokno Human Rights Award ceremony at the De La Salle University in Manila after receiving death threats. (PNA)
Photo from Inquirer