President Rodrigo Duterte is right. Many priests and nuns in the Roman Catholic Church in the Philippines are hypocrites. Add to that description the view that many of them are political opportunists. They will stop at nothing to discredit Duterte, even if it means being hypocrites in the process.
Take the current controversy surrounding Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV. The senator may be a rabid critic of President Duterte but his provocative tirades in the past have been unfounded and speculative. Years ago, he accused Duterte of maintaining bank accounts with millions of pesos in them. His accusations turned out to be duds.
This military mutineer who twice tried to overthrow the administration of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo by force of arms openly comports himself as a minion of ex-President Benigno Aquino III. It was Aquino III who saved his neck and his career by supposedly granting him an amnesty. That amnesty allowed Trillanes to leave his detention center at Fort Bonifacio and join the Senate after three years in absentia.
No wonder Trillanes is such a devoted stooge of Aquino III. Without the accommodation extended to him by the ex-President, Trillanes will still be in detention today.
When the possibility that the amnesty given by Aquino III to Trillanes may have been illegal came about, President Duterte, in his capacity as the commander-in-chief of the Armed Forces of the Philippines ordered that swift action be taken to arrest Trillanes. A defective amnesty is, in the eyes of the law, no amnesty at all, and if that is so, then Trillanes remains a prisoner of the military establishment who must be arrested immediately.
Sensing that he will be arrested, Trillanes sought sanctuary in the Senate building in Pasay City where he remains holed up today.
Although Senate President Vicente Sotto III promised Trillanes a safe haven in the building as long as the Senate is in session, Sotto’s promise is a hollow gesture. The reality is that the military and the police have not arrested Trillanes in the Senate because no warrant for his arrest has been issued by a court.
Under the Constitution, a senator is privileged from arrest while the Senate is in session and only if the crime involved carries a penalty of six years imprisonment or less. Since the crimes attributed to Trillanes are serious offenses punishable with sentences of more than six years, Trillanes can be arrested even while the Senate is in session, as long as the arrest is by authority of a warrant issued by the courts of law.
The senator tried to get an injunction from the Supreme Court, but his petition was referred to the Makati Regional Trial Court for a judicial determination of the actual status of his amnesty. That’s round one against the military mutineer.
Trillanes’ latest political caper has earned him the dubious support of the Liberal Party (LP).
Senators identified with the LP are speaking in defense of Trillanes, obviously not because Trillanes is innocent or the amnesty given to him by Aquino III is valid and lawful, but because Trillanes is an enemy of President Duterte — who happens to be the main hate object of the LP leadership.
“Without the accommodation extended to him by the ex-President, Trillanes will still be in detention today.
The LP has its reasons for disliking Duterte. In 2016, the LP was counting on the victory of their candidate, Manuel “Mar” Roxas II in the presidential race. Their dream was aborted when Duterte won convincingly in the election. Since then, the LP has trained its political big guns on the popular President.
For the LP, any enemy of Duterte has to be its friend. Trillanes, who is a member of the Nacionalista Party, fits that description perfectly.
Last week, the Trillanes camp sponsored a Mass at his office in the Senate building. From all indications, it was no ordinary Mass. The Mass was attended by many priests and nuns. It was a concelebrated Mass, with three priests officiating — which is rather extraordinary. Even past Presidents celebrating their birthdays with a Mass at Malacañang never had that kind of special attention from the Church.
According to the news media, a certain Sister Mary John prayed for the safety of Trillanes, and for the protection of all the victims of the heartless administration of President Duterte, which pollutes even the mind of the youth of the country. Holy smokes!
One Father Manuel Gatchalian said he admired people who are strong-willed and who fight for honor and truth like Trillanes. Good heavens!
Gatchalian even went on to pray that President Duterte will fall ill.
Then there was Father Robert Reyes, the so-called “running priest” who praised Trillanes as a defender of truth and honor in his opposition to President Duterte.
The hypocrisy of the priests and the nuns who denounced the President during that Mass must have been so nauseating, to put it mildly.
Have they forgotten that Trillanes is a military mutineer? As a young soldier, Trillanes took an oath to support and defend the Constitution. Instead of living up to that oath, he tried to overthrow the government twice. Isn’t betraying one’s country a crime that the clergy should also denounce?
It has been revealed that Trillanes made clandestine trips to China to discuss the situation in the West Philippine Sea. After those meetings, Trillanes urged the Philippine Navy to withdrawal its sea vessels from the dispute areas. After the Philippine ships were withdrawn, Beijing sent its ships to the disputed shoals to claim the territory for the Chinese. Isn’t that sort of treasonous behavior a crime the clergy should also decry?
Priests are supposed to wish good health to everyone, even to perceived enemies of the Church like President Duterte. When he prayed for bad health to be visited on Duterte, Father Gatchalian demonstrated to all and sundry that he is unfit to remain in the service of the Church.