Palace on Duterte's tirades vs. Catholic Church: It's self-defense

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President Rodrigo talks to the Filipino community in Papua New Guinea on November 16, 2018.

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, January 14) — Malacañang on Monday said President Rodrigo Duterte was acting in self-defense in his tirades against the Catholic Church.

"'Di ba ang sabi niya 'you are using the pulpit to attack me, hindi pupwede yung ginagawa niyo. So I'll be using my own office para sagutin ko kayo'," Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo said in a Palace press briefing. "He's only defending himself from attacks. It's self-defense."

"If you can unleash tirades against the President then be ready to receive some in return," Panelo added.

He was asked about the flak the President has received for calling on street loiterers to steal from wealthy bishops and even kill them.

READ: Duterte tells 'tambays' to rob, kill rich bishops  

Panelo reiterated saying things like this is the President's "style" and this particular statement was meant to criticize "rich" bishops who "are living in comfort (while) people are wallowing in poverty."

Despite controversial statements against the Catholic Church in public speeches, Duterte remains open to a dialogue, Panelo said.

"Anything that is beneficial to the nation palagi niyang gusto. Okay sa kanya lahat 'yun," he said.

Duterte in July 2018 met with Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) President Archbishop Romulo Valles in a one-on-one conversation, where the President vowed to stop his outbursts against God and the Church. This was supposed to be followed by Malacañang's dialogue with the CBCP, which has yet to happen. Duterte remains popular in surveys despite majority of Filipinos being Catholics.

The Church has been one of the institutions critical of Duterte's controversial polices, including the bloody war on drugs, which has seen over 5,000 deaths in police operations.

But even before Duterte assumed presidency, he, as Davao City Mayor and presidential aspirant, hogged headlines for supposedly cursing Pope Francis. This led to a meeting between him and Davao Archbishop Romulo Valles, where he imposed a P6,000 "fine" on himself for cussing. Three years after, Duterte still lets out expletives in public and attacks the Catholic Church.