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Duterte critic takes helm of Philippine bishops' conference

Bishop Pablo Virgilio David has been criticized by the president for his comments about extrajudicial drug war killings

Joseph Peter Calleja, Manila

Joseph Peter Calleja, Manila

Published: December 01, 2021 05:56 AM GMT

Updated: December 01, 2021 07:17 AM GMT

Duterte critic takes helm of Philippine bishops' conference

Kalookan Bishop Pablo Virgilio David, an outspoken critic of President Rodrigo Duterte, greets churchgoers. (Photo supplied)

A Catholic bishop who is a staunch critic of President Rodrigo Duterte began his term on Dec. 1 as president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines.

Kalookan Bishop Pablo Virgilio David, 62, will lead his brother bishops until Nov. 30, 2023, together with PasigBishop Mylo Hubert Vergara as vice-president and Leyte Archbishop John Du as treasurer.

Before becoming president, Bishop David served as vice-president of the conference, where he earned the ire of Duterte for criticizing his war on illegal drugs.

In 2018, Duterte accused Bishop David of being an addict because of the prelate’s remarks and efforts against extralegal killings in his diocese.

“I’m telling you, David. I’m wondering why you keep going out at night. I’m thinking that you f***er are probably into [illegal] drugs,” said Duterte in a speech.

Bishop David denied the accusations, saying he had never taken any kind of drugs.

I know Bishop David is a fighter for human rights. But how about the rest of the bishops? Can Bishop David convince his brother bishops to join his crusade?

“Into drugs? No, sir, I’m not into drugs of any sort, whether legal or illegal. Never been. I only help in rehabilitating people addicted to drugs. Thank God, I am not taking any maintenance drugs yet. I only take vitamins with fruit shake … You may want to try it, sir,” replied Bishop David.

In 2019, Duterte called Bishop David a “son of a whore” for allegedly using the pulpit to attack the policies of the government in solving the drug menace in the country.

The prelate hit back by saying his mother did not deserve to be insulted and called a whore.

“[Duterte] called me a son of a whore for allegedly attacking him from the church pulpit — which I have never ever done,” said David in a statement posted on Facebook.

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“Our family does not expect anyone in government to give her recognition for her immense contribution in nation-building. But we do not expect anyone either to insult her memory and call her a whore. She does not deserve it,” he added.

Catholics were looking forward to Bishop David’s leadership, particularly on where the bishops would stand in the upcoming elections.

“I hope our bishops will take a collective stand to guide the electorate of who to vote for. I know Bishop David is a fighter for human rights. But how about the rest of the bishops? Can Bishop David convince his brother bishops to join his crusade?” asked Manila parishioner Melvin De Guzman.

De Guzman also said the Philippines was blessed to have an outspoken bishop who would lead the steering wheel of the bishops’ conference towards justice and peace.

“I share the same sentiment of many of our countrymen. We need more outspoken bishops, especially when the rights of the poor are trampled on. We need a shepherd’s voice to assure that God’s flock will be protected,” De Guzman added.

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