“Pope Francis is a man of God. He is loved and respected by millions of people, from different religious affiliations worldwide, Mayor Duterte included. But even Pope Francis would never allow people to suffer at his expense.”
This is what Senator Alan Peter Cayetano said in response to attacks against Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte over his statements at the PDP-Laban proclamation yesterday.
“Traffic ang minura ni Mayor Duterte hindi si Pope Francis. He was not directing his anger and frustration at the Pope, he was expressing the people’s frustration over the government’s incompetence in handling the metro’s worsening traffic situation and the daily suffering and inconvenience it causes,” Cayetano said.
“It is unfortunate that the Mayor’s statements were grossly taken out of context. Mayor Duterte deeply respects religious beliefs and the Filipino’s spirituality. Those who know him can attest to this. He himself has a deep relationship with God. He doesn’t talk about it publicly but I know this personally having discovered this through my constant engagement with him,” Cayetano added.
Cayetano said he understands Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) President Archbishop Soc Villegas’ statement on Duterte’s alleged remarks against the Pope.
“Mayor Duterte’s environment and experience brought him up speaking tough, rough and uncensored. The Mayor came from a time and place of great conflict and suffering. While the Mayor’s words and statements were stronger than what is deemed socially accepted by some, and may rub some in the wrong way, the most important thing is, he is authentic and his heart is in the right place. He is who he is. He will always fight for the people and never allow them to suffer,” Cayetano said.
Cayetano reminded the public that the national debate should focus on how to change the country for the better. “We are here to change the country, not to change him.”
In an interview, Duterte said he was merely expressing the people’s outrage. He said it was never his intention to hurt sensibilities or disrespect the Holy Father. He said his anger is directed at the government and the 18 years of systemic neglect that has resulted in the suffering of the people.
Cayetano also questioned the sincerity of Press Secretary Edwin Lacierda in defending the Pope. The senator said Lacierda himself justified the whitewashing of the hiding of the poor during the Pope’s visit in the country. He also said the government’s lack of action in defending the public from problems like the tanim-bala scam and the pilferage or taxing on balikbayan boxes are a disservice to Pope Francis’ faithful following.
“Sec. Lacierda obviously wanted to anger the people by using Pope Francis to score propaganda points. Pero ang tanong ko, tingin ba ni Sec. Lacierda ay sang-ayon si Pope Francis noong tinago nila ang mga pulubi at mga palaboy noong siya ay bumisita? Tingin ba niya na pabor ang Pope na bumiyahe at maipit ng 5 oras sa traffic ang mga tao kung pwede naman pala pag handaan para maiwasan ito?” Cayetano asked.
“Before Sec. Lacierda points an accusing finger at Mayor Duterte maybe he should look at his own backyard and see how the government’s flawed policies and inaction have greatly disadvantaged Pope Francis’ flock here in our country,”Cayetano concluded./Office of Senator Alan Peter Cayetano