Priest tells Duterte: ‘Shut your mouth and things will be OK’

Philippine's President Rodrigo Duterte. (REUTERS)
Updated 08 July 2018
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Priest tells Duterte: ‘Shut your mouth and things will be OK’

  • Duterte is distancing himself from many Catholics — the people who voted him to office
  • The firebrand president is due to hold talks at Catholic Bishops’ Conference and also with Davao Archbishop Romulo Valles

MANILA: Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte’s comments about a “Christian God” have been criticized by a church leader who suggested the country’s leader “shut his mouth.”
Duterte on Friday night said that if anyone can provide proof that the Christian God exists, such as a selfie in heaven, he will immediately give up the presidency.
“Duterte should learn to keep his mouth shut and everything will be OK,” said a Mindanao priest and Catholic peace activist on Saturday.
Oblate missionary Elizeo Mercado Jr. told Arab News that Duterte “appears to be fixated with God and religion, and his rants against the Catholic church are polarizing Filipinos.”
In his speech, the president said he believes in one Supreme God and he “just happened to be a human being believing there’s a universal mind somewhere who controls the universe.”
But he also said: “If there is anyone of you there, the noisy ones, who would say that you have been to heaven, talked to God, saw him personally, and that He exists, the God that is yours, if that is true I will step down the presidency tonight.” Mercado, who is an acquaintance of the president, said that Duterte “does not let go.”
“I don’t know why but normally when you go up high in the presidency, when you see that your statements divide and polarize your people, normally the people up there who is committed to national unity know how to let go.”
The firebrand president is due to hold talks at Catholic Bishops’ Conference and also with Davao Archbishop Romulo Valles on Monday at Malacanang.
But Mercado said that given his fixation, “there’s no way to have a dialogue or move forward.”
“No one can help (him), except a professional. Not the church, not you and I, but professionals that deal with this kind of illness,” said Mercado.
“He has always been like that (firebrand) but... not in the same way that he is attacking the Catholic church now. I don’t know why it all appeared now. He said when he was a candidate the church was opposed to him, so it’s probably his way to retaliate,” Mercado said.
A town mayor from Luzon who supported Duterte during his campaign has also expressed disapproval of the president’s attacks on the church.
“Duterte is distancing himself from many Catholics — the people who voted him to office,” he said.
Political analyst Ranjit Singh Rye, of the University of the Philippines, said: “Only God knows the mindset of the president.”


Mexican president-elect slashes his own salary

Mexican President-elected Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador. (REUTERS)
Updated 24 min 54 sec ago
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Mexican president-elect slashes his own salary

  • Mexico ranks 135 out of 180 countries in Transparency International’s 2017 Corruption Perception Index, with higher numbers indicating higher levels of corruption
  • Lopez Obrador said he’d like to reduce his salary even further

MEXICO CITY: Mexican President-elect Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador said Sunday he plans to earn less than half of what his predecessor makes when he takes office in December as part of an austerity push in government.
“What we want is for the budget to reach everybody,” he told reporters in front of his campaign headquarters.
Glancing at a piece of paper with numbers on it, Lopez Obrador said he will take home 108,000 pesos a month, which is $5,707 at current exchange rates, and that no public official will be able to earn more than the president during his six-year term. The transition team calculates that current Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto makes 270,000 pesos a month.
Lopez Obrador said he’d like to reduce his salary even further, but that he doesn’t want to cause resentment among future Cabinet members who are in some cases leaving private sector positions and academic posts that pay more than the new ceiling for public officials.
He reiterated campaign promises to cut back on taxpayer funded perks for high-level government officials, such as chauffeurs, bodyguards and private medical insurance. The official presidential residence will become a cultural center and ex-presidents will no longer receive pensions, he said.
At the same time, he doubled down on pledges to stem corruption. Mexico ranks 135 out of 180 countries in Transparency International’s 2017 Corruption Perception Index, with higher numbers indicating higher levels of corruption.
Public officials will have to disclose their assets, he said, and corruption will be considered a serious offense.
Supporters gathered beyond the gates cheered the proposals.
“This is what we need,” said Josefina Arciniega, 57, who earns 12,000 pesos a month as an administrative assistant. “We are fed up.”
Arciniega said she’s tired of low-level public servants asking for bribes and of watching high-ranking officials living in luxury while people like her struggle to pay the bills.
Orlando Alvarado, a chemical engineer standing next to Arciniega, called Lopez Obrador’s proposed presidential salary a dignified wage.
“A lot of Mexican professionals don’t even make 6,000 pesos a month. I’m talking about accountants and doctors,” he said.