Duterte like ‘Pontius Pilate’ for death threat vs Catholic clergy – De Lima

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Opposition Senator Leila M. de Lima has slammed Mr. Duterte for washing his hands like Pontius Pilate for denying any hand in the reported death threats against members of the Catholic clergy.

De Lima, a human rights and social justice champion, said she doubts that Mr. Duterte could be trusted that he would not want any harm to happen on Catholic bishops and priests, notably on Caloocan Bishop Pablo Virgilio David.

“Duterte is not fooling anyone with his Pontius Pilate act. As it is for the victims of the drug war, when men of the cloth become the targets of Duterte’s assassins, it will be no joking matter,” she said in her recent Dispatch from Crame No. 475.

“The blood of murdered priests and bishops will still be on his hands. The real tragedy here is not that more people will die, but that we did not stop the madman even after he started going after the leaders of our church,” she added.

Last month, Duterte has encouraged street loiterers to steal from wealthy bishops and kill them should they resist, especially those who are purportedly using the church pulpit to criticize him and his administration’s all-out war on drugs.

During last Sunday’s campaign rally of the Partido Demokratiko Pilipino – Lakas ng Bayan, Duterte denied that he has put the safety of Catholic clergy at great peril as he warned those going after them to lay off or risk becoming his enemy.

De Lima, however, recalled how Duterte has repeatedly threatened to kill Catholic clergy who are opposing his administration’s war on drugs that resulted in the continued spate of extrajudicial killings in the country.

“In fact, the Catholic clergy was never threatened with harm by anybody until Duterte said they are better off dead. No one in this Catholic country, whether politician or ordinary citizen, ever had in his agenda the killing of bishops and priests, until Duterte started it,” she said.

“Only Duterte, among all the inhabitants of this country, said that the bishops deserve to be robbed and killed. The death threat came from him. His warning now that they should not be harmed can only be addressed to him,” she added.

According to the lady Senator from Bicol, it is worrying that Mr. Duterte’s jokes “can be taken seriously by his executioners who have already reiterated the same death threats to several clergymen.”

Late last year, Duterte publicly threatened to cut off the head of a certain “Bishop David” – whom many identified as the Caloocan Bishop – of stealing Church funds for personal use and having drug links because of his nightly rounds around his diocese.

“Strange as it may seem, the President telling himself not to carry out his threat to kill bishops is not entirely unexpected. Once again, Duterte is toying with officials of the Catholic Church with his sick jokes that can only come from a sick mind,” she said. In 2018, De Lima filed Senate Bill No. 1699, also known as Human Rights Defenders Bill, which seeks to institutionalize and enforce state obligations for the protection of human rights defenders.

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