Roque attributes Duterte's comments on God to experience of molestation

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, June 25) — President Rodrigo Duterte's recent tirade against the Church is just his belief — and it could come from his experience of being molested, Malacanang Palace said on Monday.

"Ang paninindigan po natin diyan, 'yan po ay personal na paniniwala ng ating pangulo," Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque said in a press briefing. "Personal po 'yan kay Presidente, hindi kinakailangan bigyan ng interpretasyon."

[Translation: Our statement is, that is the President's personal belief. It's personal to [him], and no interpretation is needed.]

Roque recalled Duterte's experience of being abused by a priest when he was attending high school at the Ateneo de Davao University.

Duterte first came forward with the allegation during his run for President in 2015. He said he and other classmates were fondled during confession by a certain Fr. Mark Falvey, S.J.

"Siguro po kinailangan na isang biktima ay maging Presidente para ito po ay maisapubliko, mapag-usapan at magkaroon naman ng solusyon," said Roque.

"Hinihingi po natin siguro na para hindi na maulit 'yung ganitong sentimyento laban sa Simbahang Katolika, ay magkaroon na po ng imbestigasyon, magkaroon ng pag-aamin kung talagang nangyari itong mga bagay na ito, magkaroon ng transparency at... hakbang para maiwasan na po ang pagmomolestiya sa mga batang kalalakihan," he added.

[Translation: Maybe it really takes a victim to become the President for this to become public, for it to be discussed and given a solution. So that this sentiment against the Church won't be repeated, we are asking for an investigation, an admission of this truly happened, transparency, and... measures to avoid other young boys from being molested.]

The President has had a bumpy relationship with the Church. He previously credited his presidential win to God, but he has also publicly doubted his existence and chastised the clergy, which has been critical of his war on drugs.

"I believe in God. Pero yung religion, wala na yata [probably not]," Duterte said in November last year. "I don't know if the God that I am embracing is the same as your God."

While Malacanang wants an apology, religion sociologist Jayeel Cornelio previously said that the Church should assert its credibility, especially amid the killings of three priests.

Malacanang's statement comes after Duterte had scathing words for God and the Church on Friday, which caused controversy in dominantly Catholic Philippines.

"Who is this stupid God? Estupido talaga itong p***** i** kung ganun (This son of a b**** is stupid if this is true). You created something perfect and then you think of an event that would tempt and destroy the quality of your work," Duterte said.

"So tayo ngayon, all of us are born with an original sin... Was it the first kiss? What was the sin? Bakit original? Nasa womb ka pa, may kasalanan ka na," he added.

[Translation: So now, all of us are born with an original sin...Was it the first kiss? What was the sin? Why is it original? You still in the womb, yet you already have a sin.]

Panelo defends Duterte tirade

Chief Presidential Legal Counsel Salvador Panelo on Monday also defended Duterte's comments on CNN Philippines' The Source. He said Duterte believed in God and was not questioning him, but the Biblical interpretation.

"So ang dating sa akin, he's questioning the interpretation of these writers na iyan ang ibig sabihin ng creation," said Panelo. "Kumbaga nirerefute nya yung ganung argument. That's a stupid argument."

[Translation: To me, he's questioning the interpretation of these writers on the meaning of creation. He's refuting that argument. That's a stupid argument.]

Lawmakers react

Senator Ping Lacson expressed disappointment at the President's remarks on Sunday. He said he even thought Duterte was "God's gift" as he hoped for change.

"Between him and my God to Whom I pray every single day and with Whom I've found solace and comfort in all my difficult times, I don't even have to think of my choice," said Lacson. "May my God forgive him and make him atone for all his sins."

Roque said that Malacanang appreciates Lacson's views, saying "History will show that he will remain a very strong ally of the President."

Opposition lawmakers were more critical in their responses.

Akbayan Representative Tom Villarin also said the comments were indicative that Duterte was "losing grip."

"It reflects his conflictive state of mind and the incessant urge to provoke people and institutions critical of his policies to deflect his shortcomings," said Villarin. "President Duterte has no one to blame, not even God, for what is happening to our country under his watch."

Senator Antonio Trillanes IV, a prominent critic of Duterte, also slammed the comments.

"Duterte's statements betrays the nature of his evil mind and is very much consistent with the deceitfulness, heartlessness and ruthlessness of his policies," he said. "It should be clear now to everyone that Duterte is one evil man."

Senator Risa Hontiveros said the remarks were "unproductive and unnecessary," and only distracted from "incompetence and corruption plaguing the administration."

"As a woman of faith myself, I understand the anger of many among us," said Hontiveros. "However, I appeal to the public to remain vigilant... Let us not allow President Duterte to distract us with his irrational stream-of-consciousness ramblings."

CNN Philippines' correspondent Ina Andolong, multi-platform writer Regine Cabato, and intern Samantha Corrales contributed to this story.