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Duterte to Filipino bishops: ‘I’ll resign if you do’

Rodrigo Duterte (CNS)

The president of the Philippines, Rodrigo Duterte, has stepped up his conflict with the country’s bishops, daring them to resign.

At a meeting with the bereaved families of policemen, Duterte said: “I challenge all the bishops conference. Let’s resign tomorrow, all together, OK? Resign. I will do it first. I will deliver my letter of resignation, you wait.”

Duterte, who was elected last year, has clashed several times with the country’s bishops, especially over his sympathy for the death penalty and his apparent sympathy for extrajudicial killings of criminals. The president of the bishops’ conference, Archbishop Socrates Villegas, said last year that the country was being damaged by “twisted, upside-down values”, and “cuss words, orchestrated lies and vulgarity never heard before”.

The president often uses crude language to attack the Church. He defended his style in yesterday’s speech, saying: “What’s wrong with that? It was easy for them (the priests) to call politician corrupt. How about you? Some are afraid because of politics. You are a son of a b****.”

He also said: :”I challenge you now. I challenge the Catholic Church. You are full of s***. You all smell bad, corruption and all.”

President Duterte has targeted drug dealers since coming to office. There are reports that 8,000 have been killed by police or others since last year, and 38,000 imprisoned. Duterte has admitted carrying out extrajudicial killings.

The president has also frequently denounced the country’s bishops as corrupt, and has launched a major drive to distribute contraceptives.

Yesterday Duterte told the bishops he would like to write a book called Hypocrisy, in which they would have a “starring role”. He added: “I will tell the bishops, many of them, ‘We have the same ignominy – women. But you are into corruption. I am not into money, just into women. So I am limited to that.'”