Out-of-work jeepney drivers queue to receive food aid from a resident in Manila on Aug. 6. A Philippine bishop has called on President Rodrigo Duterte to focus more on policies to get people through the pandemic alive instead of ones that promote death and his own personal agenda. (Photo: Lisa Marie David/AFP)
Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte must focus on policies that will enable people to survive the Covid-19 pandemic and avoid politicking and promoting death during the health crisis, a Catholic bishop says.
Instead of pushing for the death penalty, Duterte should focus on concrete measures so that Filipinos can survive the coronavirus pandemic, Bishop Julito Cortes of Dumaguete from the central Visayas region said on Aug. 6.
“We have a national leadership fixated with the death penalty, charter change and passing an anti-terror bill. Hunger is a far less terrifying threat to our people,” Bishop Cortes said in a statement.
The Philippines has seen enough fatalities and infected people caused by Covid-19, surpassing China’s 84,565 cases, he added.
The Health Department announced on Aug. 2 that there were more than 103,000 coronavirus cases in the country with more than 2,000 deaths.
Doctors and nurses have said the Philippines was losing its battle with the virus because health workers were exhausted and needed a break.
It was for this reason that Bishop Cortes said the Duterte administration should focus more on “life-giving” policies.
“When many of us are concerned about living, we heard somebody push for the passing of the death penalty, as if the deaths caused by the virus, by tokhang [extrajudicial killings] and the many unsolved killings in the country are not enough deaths,” Bishop Cortes said.
He also reminded clergymen of their prophetic role during this time of crisis in proclaiming the Good News.
“As prophets, we teach what is good to the laws of God. Anything that is contrary to that, we have the obligation to teach, to preach and, if necessary, to correct,” Bishop Cortes said.
He said that “pointing out” and “correcting” social issues that were morally inconsistent with the teachings of the Church were an obligation of clergymen.
“There is no better time to show the world that we are God’s anointed ones by giving ourselves more fully to the people we have been tasked to serve,” Bishop Cortes added.
As a final note, the bishop urged Duterte to listen more the cries of the people, saying people’s health was more important than any political agenda.
“We are hoping that people could be listened to more by our government leaders instead of ramming down our throats exercises like changing the constitution. The administration must listen to the people because the people are the true victims of this virus and injustice,” said Bishop Cortes.
He also said that true listening would happen if Duterte would talk less and listen more.
“One of the essential things or fruits of dialogue was harmony or peace. This is only possible if parties listen,” Bishop Cortes said.