Philippine president-elect Rodrigo Duterte is planning to visit the Vatican to make a personal apology to the pope for using an insulting term against him, the politician’s spokesman said yesterday.
“The mayor repeatedly said he wants to visit the Vatican, win or lose, not only to pay homage to the pope but he really needs to explain to the pope and ask for forgiveness,” Peter Lavina told reporters in the southern city of Davao.
Duterte, 71, the longtime mayor of Davao, surged to a landslide election win on Monday following an incendiary campaign in which he gleefully used foul language to disrespect authority figures.
In a rambling speech to announce his presidential run, Duterte lashed out at Pope Francis for causing traffic jams in Manila when he visited the mainly Catholic nation last year.
“It took us five hours to get from the hotel to the airport. I asked who was coming. They said it was the pope. I wanted to call him: ‘Pope, go home. Don’t visit anymore’,” said Duterte.
Catholic leaders in the Philippines condemned Duterte’s comments but, like many other controversial remarks, they had little impact on his popularity.
He used the same insult to describe many opponents and critics, including current president Benigno Aquino.
Duterte also vowed repeatedly that he would kill tens of thousands of suspected criminals in an unprecedented law-and-order crackdown, and boasted so many bodies would be dumped in Manila Bay that the fish would grow fat from feeding on them.
Duterte had already apologised to the pope in a letter and received a response from the Vatican offering “the assurance of prayers”, his aides said on the campaign trail.
Duterte said publicly the pope was the victim of a “stray bullet” resulting from his gutter language and frustration with government incompetence.
Lavina said yesterday no schedule had yet been set for the Vatican trip, although it was a top priority.
Duterte is due to be sworn into office on June 30 for a term of six years.
Despite being raised as a Catholic, Duterte openly said he fathered four children by four women.
Among his closest friends and advisers is Apollo Quiboloy, leader of the Davao-based Kingdom of Jesus Christ religious group who openly calls himself “the Appointed Son of God”.
Lavina has said repeatedly in recent days that Duterte plans to adopt a more moderate and presidential tone when he assumes office, and that his gutter language and insults were part of a performance to attract voters’ attention.
“You have to understand the Philippine style of elections. The context is most of our politicians need to communicate to our audience so many of our politicians sing and dance,” Lavina said on Wednesday.
“Some make jokes, some make funny faces. Some dress outrageously. So it is all in this context that all these jokes, bantering, happen during the campaign. We don’t expect the same attitude of our officials thereafter.”
Lavina was explaining a joke Duterte made about burning Singapore’s flag, which provoked an angry response from the city-state’s embassy.
Duterte also stirred diplomatic anger when he warned that he was prepared to sever ties with the United States and Australia, two of the Philippines’ longest and most important allies.
He was reacting to criticism from the US and Australian ambassadors over his rape comments, and told them to “shut their mouths”.
Duterte made controversial comments on rape as he recounted at a campaign rally the 1989 riot, in which he said he personally shot dead some of the inmate instigators.
Senator Alan Peter Cayetano has conceded to vice presidential frontrunner Camarines Sur representative Maria Leonor Leni Robredo and called on other candidates to “respect the people’s will”.
“I humbly concede my vice presidential bid to representative Leni Robredo, who, by all accounts and with 96 percent of the votes already tallied, is our country’s presumptive vice rresident-elect,” Cayetano said in a statement yesterday.
“Representative Leni is not only leading the [vice presidential] race, [but] she has clearly won it,” he added.
As of 11.44am, yesterday, Robredo was leading her closest rival, senator Ferdinand Marcos Jr, by 212,429 votes.
The partial and unofficial count represents 95.75% of the votes.
Cayetano said with the elections now over, the country must now unite under the presidency of Rodrigo Duterte.
He was the running mate of Duterte.
“While losing an election hurts, nothing is more painful than the sight of a divided country. Thus, I call on all the other candidates to respect the people’s will and rally behind presumptive president-elect Rodrigo Rody Duterte and his presumptive vice president-elect Leni Robredo,” Cayetano said.
“Let us begin the journey toward healing and unification,” the senator added.
Cayetano expressed confidence that Robredo will also “respect and value” the people’s full support to Duterte and “his vision to end the disorder in the people’s lives and introduce real change to our country”.
“I call on the people to rally behind our newly elected leaders. It is in this crucial hour that our voice is needed the most. Let us work together and let the process of real change begin,” he said.
Cayetano accepting defeat was welcomed by Robredo.
“We thank senator Alan Peter Cayetano for his statement about the election results. We remain open to working with him for the progress of our people,” she in a statement.
Cayetano was also considered as the running mate of Liberal Party standard-bearer Manuel Roxas 2nd’ ahead of Robredo after senator Grace Poe turned down such offer from the LP and went on to run for the presidency.
Robredo’s camp earlier cried foul over claims of senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago that the Aquino administration is rigging the polls to favor the Camarines Sur lawmaker.
Georgina Hernandez, spokesman for Robredo, said unsubstantiated claims of poll fraud is offensive to the hardworking members of the Robredo campaign team.
“We respect the opinion of Senator Miriam [Santiago] but if we look at the surveys of Pulse Asia and Social Weather Stations way back in April, [Robredo’s] numbers have been rising. [This rise is a fruit of the labor and sweat of her supporters and volunteers],” Hernandez added.
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