By Lilian C. Mellejor
DAVAO CITY, Dec. 1 (PNA) -– The daughter of Mayor Rodrigo Duterte, Senator Alan Peter Cayetano and other close allies stood for the mayor versus criticisms on his womanizing and cussing Pope Francis following his proclamation as the official candidate of the Partido ng Demokratikong Pilipino-Lakas ng Bayan (PDP-Laban) for president.
Interviewed Tuesday at NCCC, former Davao mayor Sara Duterte said her father’s “womanizing” has always been an issue. “It is his flaw as lalaki (man),” she added without elaborating.
But on the accusation of cussing Pope Francis, Sara explained it was the mayor’s usual outburst on an issue such as traffic. According to her, it was unfortunate it was highlighted in media reports.
Sara, however, stressed it should not be taken as an attack against Pope Francis and the Catholic Church. “It was a general outburst,” she added.
Duterte drew flak among netizens after it was reported that he cursed at Pope Francis when he (Duterte) got caught in a traffic jam during the Catholic Church’s leader’s visit in Manila early this year.
The mayor has however issued a short statement explaining the whole issue and expressing his regrets and apologies if his use of the word in the sentence where the Pope’s name was mentioned was misunderstood.
In a statement issued through Duterte’s spokesperson Peter Laviña, the mayor expressed sadness and regret that the part of his speech mentioning Pope Francis in relation to the monstrous traffic gridlock in January came across as being disrespectful to the person of Pope Francis.
“It was farthest from his mind and was never his intention. He acknowledges that he should have explained better his point on the matter of that monstrous traffic gridlock,” Laviña said.
According to Laviña, the mayor’s strong statement on the incompetence of those in government to address the traffic problem in Metro Manila was his expression of anger borne out of the helplessness of the millions of commuters suffering from this daily gridlock.
“It was never intended to be directed to the person of His Holiness Pope Francis who has his utmost respect. It was out of exasperation at the inutility of the functionaries in government not only during that historic visit of Pope Francis but at the daily sufferings of all citizens in Metro Manila up to this moment,” he explained.
Laviña said the mayor also fully understands the reactions of many who, at the very least, are displeased and disappointed, at this unfortunate and regrettable incident.
Even Duterte’s runningmate, Senator Alan Peter Cayetano corrected misimpression the cussing was directed to Pope Francis. Duterte’s anger and frustration was directed at government failures not at Pope Francis, Cayetano said.
“He was not directing his anger and frustration at the Pope, he was expressing the people’s frustration over the government’s incompetence in handling the metro’s worsening traffic situation and the daily suffering and inconvenience it causes,” Cayetano said in a statement.
“It is unfortunate that the mayor’s statements were grossly taken out of context. Mayor Duterte deeply respects religious beliefs and the Filipino’s spirituality. Those who know him can attest to this. He himself has a deep relationship with God. He doesn’t talk about it publicly but I know this personally having discovered this through my constant engagement with him,” Cayetano added.
Cayetano said he understands Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) President Archbishop Soc Villegas’ statement on Duterte’s alleged remarks against the Pope.
“Mayor Duterte’s environment and experience brought him up speaking tough, rough and uncensored. The Mayor came from a time and place of great conflict and suffering. While the Mayor’s words and statements were stronger than what is deemed socially accepted by some, and may rub some in the wrong way, the most important thing is, he is authentic and his heart is in the right place. He is who he is. He will always fight for the people and never allow them to suffer,” Cayetano said.
“Call it bravado, call it bluster, call it a gamble, or faith, if you will, but that is the Duterte to expect in the approaching campaign,” a Duterte ally, Chito Fuentes, said.
Fuentes said the controversial Davao mayor, however, did not appear the least conscious of the occasion, choosing to expose his worst angle so far. But Fuentes hinted at the mayor’s accomplishments and priorities such as fighting crime, criminality and government incompetence as more important.
“Duterte is not about to repackage himself just to win this election. People scandalized by his pronouncements and his behavior are raising hell about it but do not expect Duterte to mend his ways,” Fuentes stressed.
Manny Piñol, another close supporter of Duterte, also said the mayor’s use of cuss word was not directed at Pope Francis. “It was merely an expression that comes almost naturally from Duterte’s mouth and peppers almost all of his public discourses,” Piñol said.
According to Piñol, Duterte used it in jest to express his exasperation and disappointment over the inability of government to address Metro Manila’s traffic problem.
“Duterte, in spite of his human frailties and publicly admitted weaknesses, is a devout Catholic and I believe he would never show irreverence towards the Prince of his church, the Roman Catholic church,” he said.
Piñol said the political opponents of Duterte would surely exploit this issue to advance their political agenda. “At the end of the day, however, the whole country would still have to answer the question: Who could protect the country from the evils of crime, drugs and corruption?” Piñol asked. (PNA)