President Rodrigo Duterte was once again only joking and trying to lighten the mood in an otherwise "serious" briefing in Isabela when he criticized Catholic saints.
This was according to Presidential spokesperson and Chief Presidential Legal Counsel Salvador Panelo, who in a statement on Saturday, said the President's controversial remark during a situation briefing on the effects of Typhoon Rosita should not be interpreted as a "religious slight."
Hours after his office released a statement calling for a "solemn" celebration of All Saints' Day on Thursday, President Rodrigo Duterte seemingly mocked Catholics by calling Catholic saints as "g*go" and "lasenggo."
"I'll give you one patron, para hindi na kayo magpasyal. Get hold of a picture of mine, 'yan ang ilagay niyo sa altar, Santo Rodrigo," Duterte said.
On Saturday, however, Panelo claimed even the media did not take Duterte's remark seriously.
"The reporters covering the event and the audience (mostly if not all, were Catholics) before whom the utterances were made knew that the President was only making light of a serious situation briefing on the damage wrought by Typhoon Rosita," he said.
"The fact that they burst into laughter (as shown by the video clips of the TV news) showed that they were not offended by what the good Bishop and a few critics perceived to be an offensive religious statement against the celebration of All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day," he added.
Panelo said the President's remarks should not be viewed beyond the description of the reporters covering the event. "A joke is a joke and the same does not require an explanation," he said.
"The strength and credibility of a religious faith that has been there for more than two thousand years and survived wars and internecine cannot be affected by what some deem as an assault by non-believers nor will its faithfuls be offended by any playful jab on its saints," Panelo said.
Minutes before his "San Rodrigo" remark, Duterte said everyone has "obligations to the dead." "It's practically part of the culture but more than that, it's something that's very important for us to commune with our ancestors," he said.
"It's practically part of the culture but more than that, it's something that's very important for us to commune with our ancestors," he said. — MDM, GMA News