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Cardinal Tagle with Pope Francis in the Philippines in January, 2015. Cardinal Tagle with Pope Francis in the Philippines in January, 2015.  

Philippine bishops refute Duterte’s accusation against Cardinal Tagle

President Duterte alleges Cardinal Tagle was removed from Manila Archdiocese for meddling in politics.

By Robin Gomes

The Catholic bishops of the Philippines are asking President Rodrigo Duterte to deal with real and urgent issues of the country instead of wasting time on unfounded accusations. 

Addressing the General Assembly of the League of Municipalities of the Philippines in Pasay City on March 10, Duterte claimed that Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle was “removed” as Archbishop of Manila because Pope Francis was angry with his meddling in politics.

"Unbelievably ludicrous," Bishop Pablo Virgilio David of Kalookan, the vice-president of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines (CBCP), wrote on his Facebook account, commenting on Duterte's remarks.

Duterte also said that the cardinal was investigated for allegedly channelling church funds to finance the opposition Liberal Party of the Philippines and its supporters, including the Aquino political family.  

"See, they [the Church] used the money. They contributed to the yellows [opposition]… Don't you know? He was removed. Pope Francis got angry because he [Tagle] meddled with politics," Duterte said.

The Filipino president has been at odds with the Catholic Church due to their opposing stance on issues such as the war on drugs, contraception and the death penalty.   

Bishops rally around Tagle

In a CBCP statement on March 11, Bishop David asked Duterte to stop wasting time on baseless allegations.

Pope Francis, on December 8, appointed Cardinal Tagle as the Prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, the Vatican department that oversees the Catholic Church’s missionary activities worldwide.  The cardinal left Manila last month to assume his post.

“I suggest that we go back to the real issues of the day,” Bishop David said, urging Duterte to deal with the increasing cases of Covid-19 “and how to get our act together in order to prevent it from further spreading in our country”.

Bishop Ruperto Santos of Balanga said Cardinal Tagle enjoys a clean record with the Church.  Contacted by CNN Philippines, he described Duterte’s claims as "all lies, distortion of truth”.  He said that Cardinal Tagle's assignment in the Vatican "is a grace from God, a gift and a blessing to the Philippines."

Bishop Broderick Pabillo, the Apostolic Administrator of Manila after Cardinal Tagle left for the Vatican, refused to comment on Duterte’s attack against Cardinal Tagle.  “No need to dignify unfounded accusations,” he said.

Bishop Alberto Uy of Tagbilaran also stood by cardinal, saying he “enjoys Pope Francis’ trust and confidence”. “He is a model of humility, kindness, integrity and holiness. I am a personal witness to his exemplary intelligence and Christian virtues,” he said.

CBCP executive secretary, Father Jerome Secillano described Duterte’s claims as “simply twisted and reeks of intrigue”.

The Filipino president has been at odds with the Catholic Church due to their opposing stance on issues such as the war on drugs, contraception and the death penalty.   

Bishop Broderick Pabillo, the Apostolic Administrator of Manila after Cardinal Tagle left for the Vatican, refused to comment on Duterte’s attack against Cardinal Tagle.  “No need to dignify unfounded accusations,” he said.

Bishop Alberto Uy of Tagbilaran also stood by cardinal, saying he “enjoys Pope Francis’ trust and confidence”. “He is a model of humility, kindness, integrity and holiness. I am a personal witness to his exemplary intelligence and Christian virtues,” he said.

CBCP executive secretary, Father Jerome Secillano described Duterte’s claims as “simply twisted and reeks of intrigue”.

14 March 2020, 15:02