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Filipino priest attacks Duterte over 'vaccine lies'

Philippine president accused of lying after denying knowledge of military receiving Covid vaccinations

Filipino priest attacks Duterte over 'vaccine lies'

Father Flavie Villanueva attends an anti-drug war rally in Manila in this undated file photo. (Photo courtesy of Father Villanueva)

A Divine Word priest has accused Rodrigo Duterte of lying to the people after the Philippine president claimed he did not know if members of the army had received a Chinese coronavirus vaccine.

Duterte said in December that members of the army, including his bodyguards, were vaccinated against Covid-19 to ensure his safety.

“Almost all soldiers have received the vaccine. I have to be frank and I have to tell the truth. I will not foist a lie,” Duterte told reporters on Dec. 26.

However, on Jan. 4, he denied knowing whether soldiers had received the vaccine.

“I don’t know really if they were injected with the vaccine. What brand? I do not know. Do not presume,” Duterte told reporters at a press conference.

He was being asked whether the military was being prioritized above the most vulnerable when it came to who should get the vaccine first.    

Divine Word Father Flavie Villanueva, a staunch critic of the president, said the contradiction reflected much of Duterte’s character as a person.

“The word of a person is his sacred bond. It reflects both his character and person. This [word] becomes a more serious matter when someone yields and holds power. Unfortunately, for this person [Duterte], his word is as foul as his mouth,” Father Villanueva said in a social media post.

The priest, who was one of five Catholic priests who received death threats in 2019 for criticizing Duterte’s war on illegal drugs, also posted hashtags calling for the president’s resignation.

“We heard the words of a man that tend to be false,” Father Villanueva told UCA News on Jan. 5.

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One should be careful in making promises and statements in order not to create confusion and conflict among fellow human beings, he added.

“The words of Duterte bring threats to his critics, despair to the poor and falsehood to the nation.”

Father Villanueva, who also runs the Saint Arnold Janssen Kalinga Center, a church facility that cares for Manila’s homeless, said the nation has been plagued by Duterte for almost five years.

“It’s been four and a half years and the words of this man have brought us nothing and even made matters worse,” he said.

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