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Anti-Church! De Lima blames Duterte for priest slays

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By Xave Gregorio

Senator Leila de Lima pinned the blame on President Rodrigo Duterte for the killings of three Catholic priests in the past six months.

De Lima said in a dispatch Tuesday (June 19) from detention in Camp Crame that Duterte “has done nothing” but “demonize the Catholic Church and its priests.”

“There is no other bigger motive staring us in the eye than a President spouting anti-church diatribes and inciting violence on priests. Duterte is the first and foremost enabler of violence on men of the cloth,” she said.

De Lima also said Duterte “shames” slain priests with gossip, referring to the President’s revelation of a matrix supposedly showing Ventura’s illicit affairs.

“These are demented times. While Duterte incites hatred and violence upon the Catholic Church, the police look the other way in search for the killers of priests, looking for motives,” De Lima said.

Catholic priests Tito Paez, Mark Ventura and Richmond Nilo were killed in the past six months, with Ventura and Nilo being gunned down inside the church.

Their killings are subject of a proposed Senate inquiry by opposition Senator Risa Hontiveros, who said there could be a link between their deaths and Duterte’s criticisms against the Catholic Church.

Archbishop Socrates Villegas has also said that attacks against priests could have been “emboldened” by Duterte’s statements against the Church.

Duterte has been at odds with the Catholic Church in the Philippines, a Catholic-majority nation, as it remains one of the strongest opponents of his deadly war on drugs.

In January, he said the Church is “full of shit” and has been handing copies of a book on corruption in the Church in public events.

However, the Malacañang has denied any links between Duterte’s attacks against the Church and the killings of the priests.

De Lima also junked calls to arm priests following the killing of three of them in the past six months, calling the proposal an “abomination.”

“Priests are not gunslingers. If priests are going to carry guns to protect themselves from the culture of killing spawned by Duterte, they should have chosen another profession,”

“Transforming men of peace into potential killers is definitely an abomination that can rear its head only under a government that promotes violence more than anything else,” she said.

Following the priest killings, Philippine National Police chief Oscar Albayalde offered help to priests who want to arm themselves.

Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines President Archbishop Romulo Valles, however, balked at the idea, saying in a CBCP News report, “We are men of God, men of the Church and it is part of our ministry to face dangers, to face deaths if one may say it that way. But we would do it just what Jesus did.”

De Lima said it is only now, under a regime with a “kill, kill, kill mentality,” that the idea of arming priests have been floated.

“Instead of arming priests, we should start disarming [President Rodrigo] Duterte of his arsenal of violence and hatred that has enabled him to inflict so much pain and hurt among the Filipino people as never before experienced in our history,” she said.