Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte is letting everyone know he’s had enough with the Catholic Church’s opposition to his policies, deriding its leaders as “useless fools” who worship a “stupid” god.
Slamming the Catholic Church as “the most hypocritical institution” for casting doubt on his extrajudicial drug war, the outspoken leader ridiculed Catholic bishops as “useless fools,” exhorting his people to “kill them” in a speech on Wednesday. He also claimed that 90 percent of priests are homosexuals lacking any standing to “postulate on my morality.”
These bishops that you guys have, kill them. They are useless fools. All they do is criticize.
Catholic authorities have been among the most outspoken critics of Duterte’s extrajudicial war on drugs, which opposition senator Antonio Trillanes claims has caused more than 20,000 deaths since the president took power in July 2016. Duterte’s administration claims those numbers are wildly exaggerated – an official government report published in October puts the death toll at 4,999 since 2016. Human rights groups have also criticized the crackdown for targeting the poor instead of the kingpins responsible for the drug trade.
Citing their moral obligation to oppose murder, the Church has even extended assistance to some of the victims and survivors of Duterte’s heavy-handed campaign against drugs and crime, inspiring him to accuse Bishop Pablo Virgilio David of corruption and dealing drugs himself, even threatening him with decapitation while mocking his religious beliefs.
The Catholic Church has urged Duterte to tone down the rhetoric after three Catholic priests were killed last December “because such attacks can unwittingly embolden more crimes against priests.” Unrepentant, he instead called on Filipinos last week to build their own chapels instead of lining religious leaders’ pockets, telling them, “You don’t have to go to church to pay for these idiots.”
Duterte, like 90 percent of Filipinos, was raised Catholic, and he clarified in a later speech to government officials that he is no atheist but merely believes in a different deity than the Catholics – one who “has a lot of common sense” instead of the “stupid God” who built original sin into a “perfect” creation.
Last month, Duterte mocked the International Criminal Court, dismissing its judges as “pedophiles,” “drunkards,” and “idiots” and threatening to slap one of its prosecutors as the Hague tribunal investigated him for crimes against humanity. Jude Sabio, an attorney who plans to run for Senate next year, filed suit against Duterte in the ICC in May 2017 on charges related to the rising death toll of his drug war.
Duterte, who presided over a wave of vigilante-style killings while serving as mayor of Davao City, rose to power on a “law and order” campaign, promising to execute drug dealers and users in an inflammatory election contest that even saw him cursing out Pope Francis and Barack Obama – for which he later apologized. He categorically dismisses the church’s “moral authority” to criticize him, pointing to the numerous sexual abuse scandals involving priests and denouncing church authorities as corrupt. Last year, he claimed he had been abused by a priest while at university.
Duterte’s hard-line approach has found an admirer in US President Donald Trump, who suggested in a tweet on Wednesday that Chinese authorities should impose the death penalty for trafficking fentanyl, the potent synthetic opioid that has contributed to skyrocketing overdose death rates in the US. Bangladesh has also taken a tip from the Filipino leader, enacting a law punishing the production, smuggling, sale, and use of methamphetamines with death in October, while Sri Lanka announced in July it would begin executing drug dealers after 40 years without imposing the death penalty.