Rodrigo Duterte
Rodrigo Duterte
On the back page of next week's issue, you’ll read a report about a fascinating annual pageant celebrated by Oregon’s Filipino Catholics. It shows a genius for faith.

But in The Philippines, the bloodthirsty president-elect is showing nothing but ignorance and malice when it comes to Catholicism, good sense and moral behavior. That even though 80 percent of his people adhere to our faith.  

Rodrigo Duterte, a former Catholic who starts a six-year term on June 30, has made fighting crime a manic and obscene art.

He has encouraged gun-toting members of the public to shoot drug dealers. Ignoring advice that the wrong people may die, the 71-year-old president-elect said he would give medals to shooters.

Duterte, longtime mayor of Davao, is suspected of supporting death squads that assassinate those he considers criminal. He plans to reinstate the death penalty in a nation that has rejected it. We applaud the idea of reducing crime, but if you replace one atrocity with another, what have you achieved?

Apparently trying to crack down on corruption, Duterte last week declared that some journalists murdered in his nation deserved what they got. Of course, what he calls a corrupt journalist is probably only a journalist asking tough questions about his regime.

The Philippines is one of the most dangerous countries for reporters. Since 1986, 176 have been killed. The numbers will rise, now that Duterte’s appalling statements have made it open season on all journalists.

At some dark, deep level, the idea of violently eliminating our troubles is universally appealing. But most of us rise above it. And for many of us, faith is what sustains virtuous thinking. Duterte seems to have missed such vital formation.

Catholic bishops in the nation have rightly been critical of Duterte, who once joked about raping a missionary woman and who has even cursed Pope Francis. Really.   

We call on Oregon Filipinos who have family on the islands to express strong disapproval. Duterte’s ignorance is breathtaking, and when it’s coupled with the levers of power, it’s horrifying.

Filipinos have dealt with strong men before. Ferdinand Marcos ruled with martial law and corruption until the people rose up peacefully to remove him. Duterte must keep the will of the people in mind, and that includes their deeply moral Catholic sensitivities. There is no room for demagogues in world leadership.