President Rodrigo Duterte on Wednesday said his government has no policy of hatred towards religious leaders particularly Catholic priests.
“We have no policy of hatred against priests. Nothing of that sort. As a matter of fact, we respect the Church,” Duterte said in his speech during a gathering of the Philippines League of Councilors (PCL) in Iloilo City.
Duterte made this clarification amid allegations that his administration is provoking hatred and violence against the clergymen following the church’s attack against some government policies.
“What I want is that these few bishops stop linking the government. The truth is I cannot kill priests, even women and children,” Duterte said.
Recently, Malacanang joined the Catholic bishops and the faithful in condemning the murder of Fr. Mark Ventura, Fr. Tito Paez and Fr. Richmond Nilo.
Fr. Nilo was shot dead in a Nueva Ecija chapel while Fr. Paez was killed by motorcycle-riding gunmen in Jaen, Nueva Ecija while Fr. Ventura was also killed by a riding in tandem assailants in Cagayan province.
The murder of the three priests happened in a span of less than seven months.
Duterte said he is not discounting the possibility that some of the priests were killed because of their respective advocacies.
Before attending the PCL event, Duterte graced the distribution of the Certificates of Land Ownership Award (CLOA) in Cabatuan, Iloilo.
While Duterte was delivering his speech, the church bells rang prompting the President to pause for a few moments.
“It’s the tolling of the bells. That’s too many. Three is enough. Who is your bell boy? Tell the bell boy to stop. That’s too much,” Duterte said in jest.
“You know, I do not want to create a scene but you know, I have my duty. I am a Christian and I believe in God, I respect the tolling of the bells,” he added.
246 PRIESTS, PASTORS WANT GUNS
The Philippine National Police (PNP) on Wednesday said it has so far received 246 requests for firearms licenses from religious leaders.
In a press briefing in Camp Crame, PNP chief Director General Oscar Albayalde noted that the number is composed of 188 applications from Catholic priests while the rest were filed by pastors and leaders of other religious denominations.
The PNP chief said the permits would be handed down to applicants who are duly qualified and subject to compliance with requirements.
Albayalde also reiterated his call for priests, as well as other private individuals at risk, to report threats to their safety and coordinate with local police units.
He also said the PNP is willing to provide firearms proficiency training for interested parties.
Albayalde explained that like other private individuals applying for a License to own and possess firearms (LTOPF) and permits to carry firearms outside of residence (PTCFORs), priests are entitled to own up to two firearms depending on the category applied.
Automatic rifles and so-called long firearms are not covered by the permits. (PNA)