Philippine bishops dismiss Duterte's threat to resign

President claims he's frustrated over inability to stamp out graft within government, opposition call on him to quit
Philippine bishops dismiss Duterte's threat to resign

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte speaks to newly appointed government officials at the presidential palace in Manila on Aug. 13. (Photo courtesy of the Presidential Communications Office)

At least two Catholic bishops have dismissed Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte's threat to resign out of frustration over his failure to address corruption in government.

One bishop said the president "could be just joking," adding that nobody knows when the president is serious or teasing his audience.

"The problem with commenting on what Duterte says is that his words are not reliable," said Manila Auxiliary Bishop Broderick Pabillo.

"He can just easily take it back," said the prelate.

In a speech on Aug. 14, Duterte said he was ready to quit the presidency should the military and police "find" the right successor.

"I am telling you, I am ready to step down and retire," he said, adding that he was "tired" and frustrated by corruption in government.

"I am exasperated because however I try ... graft is so embedded, it is endemic, and it is always part of the territory of a transaction especially by government," said the president.

"I do not think I can fulfill my promise to the people," he added.

During his election campaign in 2016, Duterte vowed to end corruption in government.

The president, however, said he is "hesitant" to allow his vice president, opposition leader Leni Robredo, to succeed him should he step down.

"I have nothing against Robredo. She's a lawyer, you have heard her talk, but I do not think she can improve on anything here," said Duterte.

He said he could only trust the military to "control [the situation] when everything breaks down."

Bishop Ruperto Santos of Balanga said, however, that Duterte should try to "win his fight" because he promised to get rid of corruption when he took office.

"To resign is to accept that he is failing when it comes to corruption," said the prelate.

"Our advice is fight corruption whatever it takes, set a good example and do your best, so that there will be no regrets at the end," he added.

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The opposition said the president should just step down.

"Let's give the president the benefit of the doubt that this time, he meant what he said that he was thinking of stepping down because he is tired of chasing the corrupt," said Erin Tanada, leader of the opposition Liberal Party.

"Our unsolicited advice: Just do it," he said, adding that, "it is not up to the president ... to decide who takes his place when he steps down."

It is not the first time that Duterte has threatened to leave office. In July, he said he would step down if somebody could prove the existence of God.

At the start of his term he said he would resign if the Philippines had not rid itself of drugs and crime after three to six months. 

"It has been more than two years since, and crime is still rampant in the streets," said Tanada, adding that Duterte's repeated threats to quit "denigrates the presidency."

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