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Philippines

Duterte's first year in office draws lots of flak, praise

War on drugs, death penalty moves come top of church leaders' list

ucanews.com reporters, Manila

ucanews.com reporters, Manila

Updated: June 29, 2017 09:05 AM GMT
Duterte's first year in office draws lots of flak, praise

President Rodrigo Duterte arrives in Manila on June 28 from the southern Philippine region of Mindanao where he visited soldiers wounded in the ongoing anti-terror operations in Marawi. (Photo by King Rodriguez)

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, who marks his first year in office on June 30, drew both praise and criticism from the country's Catholic Church leaders.

While being praised for trying to eradicate corruption and for addressing concerns raised by Filipino migrants workers, the president is being condemned for his deadly "war on drugs."

Auxiliary Bishop Broderick Pabillo of Manila said the president's first year was highlighted by the "many poor people who have been killed" because of the government's anti-narcotics war.

At least 7,000 people have been reported killed by police and unknown assailants since Duterte launched his war on drugs after taking office.

"The drug problem is still with us," said Bishop Pabillo.

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"His performance has been an almost total disaster for our country," said Bishop Teodoro Bacani, retired prelate of Novaliches.

He lambasted Duterte's use of coarse words as "unworthy of a president."

Using profanity-laden language, the president has repeatedly hit out at the country's bishops and clergy for opposing proposals to restore capital punishment and lower the age of criminal liability for minors.

He even dared Catholic bishops to resign after accusing them of corruption, womanizing, and sex abuse.

"His performance is mediocre," said Bishop Arturo Bastes of Sorsogon. "He has no respect for basic human rights," added the prelate.

The prelate, however, admitted Duterte's popularity keeps his government stable. 

"Were it not for this strange phenomenon, his political clout would be in danger," said Bishop Bastes.

Bishop Ruperto Santos of Balanga, however, lauded Duterte for helping address the concerns of Filipino migrant workers.

"We are grateful and appreciative of his efforts toward [migrant workers]," said the head of the bishops' Episcopal Commission on Migrants and Itinerant People.

The prelate also commended the president's plan to create a government department for overseas workers.

But the bishop said Duterte should also focus on creating jobs in the country so that the Philippines will not just be a "labor exporting country."

Bishop Honesto Ongtioco of Cubao said the president must be aware of his "good and not so good qualities ... he tries to serve us his people."

Redemptorist Father Amado Picardal who has been vocal in criticizing Duterte's war against illegal drugs said, "a lot of people are frustrated due to the president's failure to fulfill his promises."

During the presidential campaign early in 2016, Duterte vowed to address poverty, corruption in government, and criminality, among others.

"Poverty is not being addressed, corruption has worsened," said Father Picardal. "Even peace negotiations with rebel groups have been suspended," added the priest.

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