A political marriage made by pragmatism
Tomorrow, a lawyer called Jesus Falcis will present arguments before the Supreme Court of The Philippines, arguing that a law which defines marriage as a union between an adult male and adult female violates the 1987 Constitution which does not specifically address the issue of same-sex marriage. Falcis is not the typical Duterte supporter and has been on record opposing many of Duterte’s flagship initiatives.
Yet both Duterte and Falcis have become accidentally united as both find that they are negatively on the receiving end of the political influence that the Roman Catholic Church continues to exert over the national life of the country. Duterte has been politically astute in trying to weaken the political influence of the Catholic Church and in so doing has earned the ire of many Catholic clergy who have overstepped many ethical and legal red lines in openly meddling in national politics rather than remaining focused on spiritual issues.
Where Duterte stands
In 2017, Duterte spoke before a gay pride rally in his home city of Davao and stated,
“I want same-sex marriage. The problem is we’ll have to change the law. But we can change the law…
…But if you would ask me what makes you happy, do it. You can only do it once. Never return back. This is one straight deal. So whatever makes you happy, you go out of this universe happy and fulfilled. If it makes the gays happy, let them be. I do not condemn anybody there. What makes you happy, good. Just don’t violate the law”.
Thus, Duterte’s position appears to be one which favours a striking of the law which clearly bans legal recognition of same-sex unions, but it would seem that he is more ambivalent regarding whether the current law is unconstitutional. Tomorrow, the Supreme Court will begin hearing arguments which if successful in persuading the justices, would mean that no new law will be needed, although certain administrative amendments will likely be necessary if the Court finds that the government has no Constitutional right to prohibit same-sex marriages.
Duterte’s clean government vs. a scandal prone Church
Duterte has long been an opponent of both political and social dogmas of the Catholic Church. While Duterte like most Filipinos is a believer in God, he has renounced the institutional habits of the Roman Catholic Church on multiple occasions.
Recently, Duterte has vowed to expose a private dossier regarding the unethical practices of some Catholic priests who have recently been murdered. While many priests blame Duterte for the deaths, the Philippine President has stated,
“We have (a dossier showing the reason why one of the priests was killed). I have a copy of it. But I suppressed that because that’s not good for the Catholic Church. It’s because it involves women. If the Catholic wants, I will release the matrix why the priest was killed. I’m only restraining myself. But I gave a copy to the chairman of CBCP (Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines). But if that’s what Soc Villegas (the President of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines) wants, I will release it”.
Even prior to his election as Philippine President in 2016, Duterte has never be shy about criticising the Roman Catholic Church. During his election campaign, Duterte stated,
“I will lecture until June 29 the sins of the Catholic Church and whether or not you are still relevant…..Let this election be a referendum between me and the Catholic church”.
In 2017, he said that Church leaders were “full of shit”. Duterte who himself was a victim of Church abuse has accused clergy of hypocrisy saying,
“You criticise the police, you criticise me. For what? You have the money. You are all crazy … when we were making confessions to you, we were being molested. They are touching us. What is your moral ascendancy, religion? What is the meaning of it!”.
A political masterstroke
While issues regarding amending the Philippine ban on divorce and legalising same-sex marriage divide many people on a personal basis, from a political perspective, Duterte has clearly shown that if the Catholic Church oversteps its own boundaries and continues to act as a neo-colonial fifth column working against the elected leadership of the country, he too will cross Catholic red lines – same-sex marriage being one of them.
While many Catholics and Duterte’s opposition Liberal Party continue to condemn him for giving a playful kiss to a woman during a speech before Filipinos living in Seoul, Duterte’s infamous kiss was in reality a very clever trolling of both the Catholic Church and his Liberal opposition. The context of the kiss was when Duterte invited a young woman on stage in order to receive a copy of a book called Altar of Secrets: Sex, Politics and Money in the Philippine Catholic Church by Aries Rufo. Duterte then jokingly said that instead of receiving money for a copy of the book, he’d prefer to get paid with a kiss.
In giving away a book warning of the dangers of unchecked Roman Catholic Power over The Philippines and then by provoking the notoriously prudish Church and his opportunistic political opponents simultaneously, Duterte has proved that his critics are so bereft of any originality that they merely wait like hungry dogs for a chance to bite at a bone thrown to them by Duterte. In this sense, Duterte has expertly trolled his critics and as usual they fell for the bait like the dogmatic and unoriginal robotic individuals that they are.
It remains to be seen how the Supreme Court will rule on the issue of same-sex marriage, but what is clear is that Duterte is fighting against both the corruption of the current political system in the country which he has vowed to replace by a more fair and representative federal system, while Duterte is simultaneously working against the last major remnant of Spanish imperialism in the country – the corrupt and politically obtrusive Catholic church.
What ever one’s opinion on kisses, divorce and same-sex marraige, one has to admit that Duterte has expertly played his opponents in quietly working to make The Philippines a more secular and consequently a more prosperous country.