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Duterte’s ‘stupid God’ remark draws ire of religious leaders

29 June 2018

It took President Rodrigo Duterte to describe God as “stupid” for the country’s religious leaders to speak up in almost unison against what one of them considered not only as blasphemous in the highest order but also as a violation of the Constitution.

Duterte, in his usual rambling remarks delivered in mixed English and Filipino in an event in Davao, called God “stupid” and questioned the logic of the allegorical Bible story of the temptation of Adam and Eve.

“Who is this stupid God? The son of a bitch is really stupid,” Duterte said, eliciting angry retorts in social media. It also sparked outrage in the predominantly Christian nation. 

Eddie Villanueva, founder of the Christian group Jesus is Lord Movement, said Duterte’s remark calling God stupid was a violation of the 1987 Constitution because the document “believes in God.”

“It’s very clear for the sake of argument, that is already a violation of the constitution because the very constitution, the soul of the Filipino people, believes in God,” he said.

Villanueva, who has in the past been generally supportive of the president, said that Duterte was “wittingly or unwittingly” violating the soul of the nation by disparaging God. He also labeled Duterte’s comments as “a kind of blasphemy in the highest order.”

The JIL founder and leader, whose son, Sen. Joel Villanueva, is part of the Duterte-aligned majority bloc in the Senate, said that he felt “holy anger” upon hearing the president’s remarks.

Despite the denunciations, Duterte stuck to his remarks on Monday but clarified that he was criticizing the God of Catholics. His spokespersons have justified the comments as freedom of expression and as a critique of Catholic teachings.

Duterte, who has in the past cursed Pope Francis and former US leader Barack Obama, also claimed that his God has common sense while that of his critics is stupid. He did not say which god he meant, but mentioned a “universal mind”.

While clarifying his “stupid God” remarks, Duterte lobbed another attack at Catholics, this time questioning the Lord’s Supper and why those who were with him became saints.

In the same speech, Duterte, who has been slammed for his demeaning remarks on women, said that creating the first woman, Eve, and was God’s “greatest mistake.”

Duterte’s daughter, Davao City Mayor Sarah Duterte, asked critics to ignore her father’s rants on the Bible, saying he is not a priest to be an expert on religion. She said people should judge Duterte based on his work as president and not on his “talkkalese.”

“Please do not listen to him interpret the Bible or Quran, he is not a priest, a pastor or an imam. He is the president, listen only when he speaks about his work,” she said in a statement on her social media account.

Carpio said that whatever the president said was his opinion and is protected by his constitutional right to freedom of speech and expression.

In an attempt to calm down angry criticisms, presidential spokesperson Harry Roque

Dismissed the religious leaders’ outrage over the remark a consequence of the “mutual dislike” between Duterte and the Catholic Church leaders who supposed a different candidate during the 2016 elections.

Roque also said the Catholic Church should be ready to receive criticisms since it had been slamming the president’s words and actions in the two years that he had been in office.

“What I said, let’s not be onion-skinned. It’s not possible for the Catholic Church to be the only one issuing criticisms and then when the president criticizes it seems they are unacceptable,” Roque said in Filipino, pointing to the pastoral letters and statements of bishops against the chief executive.

“Just like what I said, let’s be frank about this, both sides dislike each other. Let us just accept that the Catholic Church does not like President Duterte. Let’s not be coy about it,” Roque said.

Even then, Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle, the archbishop of Manila, called for calm amid the religious outcry against Duterte’s remark, saying the faithful should not be distracted from other pressing issues confronting the country.

“[L]et us not be distracted from addressing other pressing concerns with fervor of faith and love, for example, the increasing prices of goods, job security, exploitation of women and children, violence in homes and neighborhoods, different types of addictions, crimes, vulnerabilities of OFWs (overseas Filipino workers) the daily paralyzing traffic in big cities, flooding, reconstruction of destroyed cities, combating terrorism, corruption and others,” the soft-spoken cardinal said in a letter to priests on Wednesday.

“Be at peace. Be calm. Don’t let things disturb your inner peace. Let us read the situation with the eyes of faith,” said Tagle, who was in Geneva for a UN conference on migrants and refugees.

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