A former assassin has accused the president of the Philippines, President Rodrigo Duterte, of ordering the killings of criminals and opponents while he was mayor of Davao City. Edgar Matobato, 57, told a nationally televised senate committee hearing that Duterte had sanctioned the killings and even personally “finished off” a justice department employee with a submachine gun. In this period, about 1,000 Davao residents were killed. A presidential spokesman denied the accusations.
What the bishops are saying
The bishops of the Philippines delivered a strong statement last week condemning the death penalty, which Duterte wants to reintroduce.
Fr Marvin Mejia, secretary-general of the episcopal conference, said the statement, which did not directly attack the president, marked a new approach. He said: “The conference is learning a new approach to dealing with the president. For a long time, the bishops in the Philippines were the ones telling society what to do and what not to do. They were part of the power structure. Now we have a president who doesn’t care if he’s talking to an archbishop. And while I do think he’s open to debate, he does tend to take things personally.”
Father Mejia said the statement was more proactive than previous statements issued by the bishops.
What the media is saying
Despite all this, Duterte’s “stock remains high”, said Joanna Fuertes-Knight, writing for the Guardian. “While Duterte’s obsessive war on narcotics may be horrifying to an international audience, for many Filipinos – even those ambivalent to his presidency – a ‘some action is better than no action’ stance has made a welcome change of pace.”
But in PhilStar, Jose C Sison said Matobato’s statement would only add to a “growing perception, both here and abroad” that Duterte’s drug war was coming at the cost of human rights. “Duterte must once and for all clarify and reconcile his conflicting statements regarding this matter,” Sison wrote, “to erase all doubts about upholding human rights and the rule of law in this war to eliminate the drug problem in our country.”
The most overlooked story of the week
✣Mexicans march in 122 towns against gay marriage
Mexicans have marched in protest against same-sex marriage. Organisers estimate the numbers at around a million in 122 towns and cities, including 275,000 in Guadalajara. Same-sex already exists in parts of Mexico, but President Enrique Peña Nieto has announced that he is seeking to change the constitution.
Why was it under-reported?
Although the BBC did not report the protests, it found time to cover a much smaller protest in favour of introducing gay marriage in Mexico: “Mexicans march for gay marriage after opponents rally”. Perhaps this is because the acceptance of gay marriage seems so widespread within the secular media that corporations such as the BBC don’t feel compelled to cover opposing views any more. The Guardian did cover the rally, with the headline: “Thousands march in Mexico against proposal to allow same-sex marriage”.
What will happen next?
As recent political events have shown in countries such as France and Britain, opposition to same-sex marriage does not usually motivate governments to change their minds. On the other hand, the president is very unpopular. On Independence Day this year, thousands of Mexicans came out to call for Nieto’s resignation. Perhaps he will think twice about introducing legislation which is likely to make him even more unpopular with the electorate. But with the legal precedent in place, the law seems inevitable.
✣The week ahead
The Pope will be visiting Georgia and Azerbaijan next Friday. Francis will meet Christian, Muslim and Jewish leaders during his three-day trip. In Georgia he will meet the president and Patriarch Ilia II, the leader of the Georgian Orthodox Church. In Muslim-dominated Azerbaijan the Pope will celebrate Mass with the tiny Catholic community.
There will be a special one-off second collection for the Shrine of Our Lady at Walsingham this weekend to coincide with the feast of Our Lady of Walsingham. The shrine is seeking to raise £10 million for building work and to expand its mission.
On Tuesday the first of four televised debates will be aired between US presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. The last debate will be held on October 19.
Cardinal Donald Wuerl has asked clergy not to talk politics in the pulpit. “No one elected us,” he said, “and there might be serious reason to believe they probably would not.”