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.”


US’s Pompeo faces thorny issues on India visit, from trade to Russia arms deals

Updated 17 min 22 sec ago
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US’s Pompeo faces thorny issues on India visit, from trade to Russia arms deals

NEW DELHI: US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo arrived on Tuesday for talks with Indian leaders in New Delhi, where he is expected to tackle a host of delicate issues from trade to India’s longstanding defense and energy ties to Russia and Iran.
Relations between the United States and India have improved dramatically since the Cold War but they have still fallen short of their promise and now have run into serious problems over tariffs, flows of data and tighter Indian rules on online commerce in one of the world’s fastest growing large markets.
Pompeo landed in New Delhi late on Tuesday night after an unannounced trip to Kabul.
He will kick off his visit to India by calling on Prime Minister Narendra Modi who was re-elected for a second term last month with a powerful mandate that analysts say gives him the chance to take bold reforms to propel Asia’s third largest economy toward faster growth.
Just ahead of his visit, New Delhi imposed tariffs on some US goods after President Donald Trump’s administration threw India out of a group of countries that were allowed duty free access for some of their products into the large US market.
While trade issues are led by the US Trade Representative’s office and the commerce departments, Pompeo is expected to raise some of the concerns US companies have about new rules on local storage of data as well as restrictions on foreign companies’ online operations in India.
“We expect trade and ecommerce to figure in the meetings with the PM and the foreign minister, we are ready to engage them on data issues,” said an Indian government official, speaking on condition of anonymity in line with service rules.

Pressure
Pompeo’s visit is expected to lay the ground for talks between Trump and Modi later in the week on the sidelines of the G20 summit in the Japanese city of Osaka.
India hopes that this week’s high-level meetings will help re-start talks over a trade package the two had been negotiating for months, the official said.
In recent weeks, the United States has also stepped up pressure on India not to proceed with its purchase of S-400 surface-to-air missile systems from Russia.
India says the missiles are necessary to bolster defenses against China, but Washington has said it would prefer India to consider other options including US defense firms for alternative weapons systems.
A second Indian official said India believed it had a case for a waiver from US sanctions should it go ahead with the missile system purchase from Russia.
Washington has also threatened to impose sanctions on Turkey, a NATO ally, which is also buying the S-400 system.
Under US pressure India has stopped buying oil from Iran, one of its top suppliers, and the two Indian officials said the oil-dependent economy had taken a hit as a result.
Now, with tensions rising between the United States and Iran, New Delhi is further worried about the security of its energy supplies.