Church-state separation is OK, but ‘there should never be separation between God and state’ — Philippine President Duterte

Reuters – Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte speaks during his first State of the Nation Address at the Philippine Congress in Quezon City, Metro Manila, Philippines on July 25, 2016.

He once slammed the Catholic Church as “the most hypocritical institution” in the Philippines. He even called some prelates “sons of whores.”

But on Monday, newly proclaimed Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte made clear he is not against religion, including the Christian faith, but only on some church leaders who he perceived to be corrupt.

During his first State of the Nation Address, Duterte even pointed out the need for a union between God and state.

Addressing religious leaders, Duterte said, “Let me assure you that while I’m a stickler for the principle of separation between Church and state, I believe quite strongly that there should never be a separation between God and state,” Rappler reports.

Following his presidential inauguration, Duterte has shown openness toward some religious leaders. He recently welcomed to the Malacanang presidential palace Manila Archbishop Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle and retired Cebu Archbishop Ricardo Cardinal Vidal, even kissing the hands of the two top prelates in a traditional form of respect.

Catholic leaders are among those criticising the daily extrajudicial killings going on in the Philippines even as the Duterte administration pursues a relentless campaign against illegal drugs. Some critics have accused the Duterte administration of violating human rights, including those of drug suspects.

However, during his state address on Monday, Duterte vowed to uphold human rights but said this should not be used as an excuse to destroy the country, the Philippine Daily Inquirer reports.

“Human rights must work to uplift human dignity. But human rights cannot be used as a shield or excuse to destroy the country,” he said.

Duterte then vowed to continue his war against drugs. “We will not stop until the last drug lord, the last financier, have surrendered, put behind bars or below the ground if they so wish,” he said.

Aside from his iron-fisted campaign against drugs, Duterte could find himself facing church opposition in another front. During his state address, he also vowed that the country’s Reproductive Health Law must be implemented to curb the country’s skyrocketing population growth and assist the poor in family planning.

“The implementation of the Reproductive Health Law must be put in full force and effect so that couples especially the poor will have freedom of informed choice on the number and spacing of children,” he said.

The law is being opposed by the Catholic Church and other pro-life groups.

In laying down his plans for the next six years, Duterte promised a clean leadership.

“I assure you, this will be a clean government,” the President said.

He also vowed to punish crooked government officials. “Those who betrayed the people’s trust shall not go unpunished. They will have their day in court,” he warned.

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