Members of the El Shaddai Charismatic Renewal Movement brave rain during the group's anniversary celebration in August, 2015. A Catholic bishop has called on the group to refrain from voting for controversial presidential candidate Rodrigo Duterte. (Photo by Gil Nartea)
A Catholic bishop has called on members of the Philippine's largest Catholic charismatic movement not to vote for presidential candidate Rodrigo Duterte who has come under fire for joking about the rape and murder of an Australian missionary.
"I said openly to the El Shaddai people, don't vote for Duterte," said Bishop Teodoro Cruz Bacani, retired prelate of Novaliches and spiritual adviser of the El Shaddai Charismatic Renewal Movement.
Bishop Bacani said he could not imagine Duterte — who is currently the presidential election front runner — as the next leader of the Philippines.
"You can judge the act. What you cannot judge is the inner conscience of a person," said the bishop.
The El Shaddai is one of the many Catholic charismatic movements that emerged in the 1980s and it claims a following of 3 to 8 million Filipinos, although independent estimates say 2 million.
Duterte, nicknamed "Dirty Harry" for his tough stance on crime, has come under fire over comments made at a rally about the rape and murder of 36-year-old Australian missionary Jacqueline Hamill in 1989.
Duterte, who is currently mayor of the southern Philippine city of Davao, later apologized for the remarks.
On a separate occasion Duterte called the country's Catholic bishops "dumb" for misinterpreting his comments on the rape.
Members of various women's groups have filed a complaint before the Commission on Human Rights against Duterte for his "damaging remarks regarding women."
The complaint indicated that the presidential candidate violated the Philippines' Magna Carta for Women Act when he made a remark about his desire for the slain Australian missionary.
In their complaint, the women said that "to make the rape of a woman, who was later killed a laughing matter, and to treat women as playthings to be taken, constitute an affront to us and all women."
Missionary Benedictine Sister Mary John Mananzan told ucanews.com that Duterte should make "a radical change in the core of his persona from where his crude and damaging words proceed."
"But I think he is too old and arrogant to change," said the nun.
Jose Luis Martin Gascon, chairman of the human rights body, assured that "an investigation will follow" and a notice will be served to Duterte for his reply.
When asked for his reaction to the complaint, Duterte said the women can "go to hell."
Auxiliary Bishop Broderick Pabillo of Manila, chairman of the Episcopal Commission on the Laity of the bishops' conference, expressed apprehension if Duterte, who has also repeatedly threatened that he will kill criminals, becomes president.
"That to me is very worrisome," said Bishop Pabillo.
"But what is more worrisome is if many people share the opinion that you can do evil by fighting evil. If that's how we view things then the country's morality has deteriorated," he added.