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Before Rodrigo Duterte, no Philippine president, as morally challenged as some of them may have been, had ever disparaged Catholicism and Christianity, much less cursed the God Christians, Muslims, and Jews worship in common. Even Ferdinand Marcos, to whose overthrow in 1986 both the institutional Church as well as its activists contributed, did not take that path, although among the victims of his terrorist regime were nuns, priests, pastors, and other religious workers.
President Rodrigo Duterte has denied ordering the arrest of “istambay” (the plural form of Filipino nouns is not formed with an “s”) despite the Philippine National Police’s detention of over 7,000 mostly young people, and the death, most likely through a police beating, of at least one individual who had stepped shirtless out of his home to get a cellphone “load” only to be arrested and jailed.
The killing of three priests over the last six months -- of Fr. Marcelito Paez last December, 2017, Fr. Mark Ventura in April, and Fr. Richmond Nilo this June -- has provoked both outrage as well as fears that it is part of the Duterte regime’s campaign to silence its critics.
With no sense of irony, it seems, did the United States “grant” Philippine independence on the same date as its own independence day, nearly half a century after Emilio Aguinaldo proclaimed independence in Kawit, Cavite on June 12, 1898, and the First Republic was established in Malolos, Bulacan on Jan. 23, 1899.
Upon the declaration of martial law in 1972 and in the 14 years that followed, the Marcos terror regime arrested, abducted, and detained over a hundred thousand political activists; artists, writers and critical journalists; teachers, professors, lawyers and other professionals; student, labor and peasant leaders; Muslims and indigenous people; and members of the opposition and other regime critics.
His attacks on the press are “repulsive,” and “he should be the figure of suspicion, not the press,” when it comes to “fake news.” A president who “constantly deflects and distorts and distracts -- who must find someone else to blame -- is charting a very dangerous path.”