Catholic bishop, governor throw support to incoming President Duterte

DUMAGUETE CITY –- Diocese of Dumaguete Bishop Julito Cortes on Wednesday announced that he is supporting incoming President Rodrigo Duterte but with certain limitations.

The bishop issued his statement as the country awaits the inauguration of President Duterte on Thursday.

“He is our president and a very popular one. He was voted (by the people) with overwhelming results and for that reason I believe that he should be supported”, said Bishop Cortes as he wished him well in his presidency.

“And I pray for him that he will be successful in achieving what he wants for the good of the country,” the 58-year-old Dumaguete prelate added.

However, Bishop Cortes stressed that supporting Duterte does not mean giving up on the things that the Catholic Church had always stood for.

“For the things that we could not agree on, we will continue to hold on to our convictions. For example, there are those that are not negotiable as far as we, the bishops are concerned,” Cortes stressed.

He was referring to the death penalty and the culture of “condoning” killings as some means to address the illegal drugs problem and corruption in the country.

“There will always be differences (between the Church and Duterte) and so therefore, we must continue to pray for him”, Cortes added.

Negros Oriental Governor Degamo, meanwhile, highlighted that it should not only be illegal drugs but also the illegal numbers game, “swertres”, as well that the Duterte should focus on during his term as president.

There are unconfirmed reports that “swertres” is being run by officials in government, such as those in Negros Oriental.

Governor Degamo said he supports whatever program the Duterte administration will implement, including the war against illegal drugs.

The programs and projects of the provincial government will align with that of the Duterte administration, Degamo added.

On the other hand, a priest in the Diocese of Dumaguete, Fr. Eric Lozada, has expressed concern that Duterte’s inclination towards the use of force to address criminality would lead to the desensitization of the people.

“I agree with him that we need to quash this problem (illegal drugs) but the way he is doing it, I am critically reflective of it and against it”, the priest said, referring to Duterte’s proclivity towards killing as a means to achieve peace.

But Fr. Lozada at the same time articulated that he is happy that the “people have spoken” as shown in the overwhelming votes that Duterte got in the May elections.

“In terms of expectation, I hope there would be less words and more of doing, as sometimes he tends to use words that are insensitive to others,” Lozada added.

He, however, clarified that he understands what the incoming president has to deal with but that there has to be another way to address the problems of deep-seated corruption and illegal drugs, among other problems.

For his part, Dumaguete-based lawyer Joel Obar, expressed optimism that federalism will take off soon after the Duterte is sworn in as the next president of the Philippines.

Obar is the national point person of the federalism movement under the Duterte administration.

Soon, President Duterte will be at the center of power, “the very power that he desires to dismantle and share it to the regions via a federal system”, he said.

According to Obar, to attain this, “the Constitution has to be revised in its entirety through a constitutional convention, a body separate, independent and distinct from Congress which is a collaborated part of the central government.”

“In federalism, the powers of the center are to be unloaded in favor of the region, to include ownership of natural resources and the power to tax,” Obar added.

And this, he has to say: “Mr. President, through the federal movement of the Philippines, hindi ka nag-iisa sa laban na ito. The people are with you all throughout. Congratulations!”

Meanwhile, people from various walks of life here have expressed their sentiments, concerns and expectations with the incoming presidency.

“I hope the President will fulfill his promise because every Filipino citizen has high hopes in his leadership. I hope he can also instill discipline because this is what the country needs today,” said Dioscoro P. Aranas, a farmer from Barangay Camanjac in Dumaguete City.

“Let us be vigilant. I hope the members of his Cabinet will show good performance and not just lip service,” Sulpicio C. Vensuelo, furniture maker, said of the incoming president.

“I wish him well in his administration”, Jun C. Yurong, Marketing Specialist said.

Allan Zerna, freelance real estate broker, says he will be praying “that the President will have the pink of health considering the challenging task ahead. I also hope he will be strong enough to face his detractors”.

“President Duterte is a man of few words but with conviction. I hope he can replicate the discipline, cleanliness and peace like in Davao City,” Arnulfo Benemerito, Jr., a licensed electrician, said.

“I hope he will be open to the media and not deprive the people on what they need to know. Our freedom is precious,” expressed Dolores Diez, a vendor.

“Change is coming and I hope real change will happen to our country. May the marginalized sector feel the impact of economic growth,” said Preciosa Salimbagat, a fruit vendor. Judaline Partlow/ PNA/