At least three Catholic priests have joined critics in accusing Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte of lying to the people after he declared his intention to run for the vice presidency next year.

Duterte caught observers by surprise on Nov. 13 by saying he had decided to become the running mate of longtime ally, friend and lawmaker Christopher “Bong” Go.

In early October, he had announced he would not be running for vice president, saying he was retiring from politics.

Duterte’s weekend U-turn will pit the president against his daughter, Sara Duterte, who declared she would run for vice president as Ferdinand “BongBong” Marcos Jr’s running mate.

Media reports have speculated that the decision could be the result of a rift between Duterte and his daughter, but some analysts believe this will strengthen his chances of shielding himself from a possible International Criminal Court trial stemming from his deadly war on drugs.  

Staunch Duterte critic Father Flavie Villanueva said Duterte’s move should not really be that surprising as he has broken many promises in the past.

The clergy and religious can take a partisan position when the common good demands it, when justice is grossly violated, when the good of the Church requires it or when the Gospel values are at stake

“The president has changed the Philippines, particularly in the way statesmen run for public office. He has normalized the art of lying,” Father Villanueva said in a Facebook post.

The priest was referring to Duterte’s October statement in which he said he would go back to his home city Davao to retire from politics and prepare for his pending case in the International Criminal Court.

“In obedience to the will of the people who placed me in the presidency, I now say, to my countrymen, I will follow your will. Today, I announce my retirement from politics,” Duterte said at the time.

Vincentian Chair for Social Justice Father Daniel Pilario also accused Duterte of deceiving the electorate and turning politics into a family business.

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He also called on voters not to support those who support extrajudicial killings and those tainted by corruption.

When good governance is threatened by killings and corruption, the Catholic Church’s voice must be heard, he said.

“The clergy and religious can take a partisan position when the common good demands it, when justice is grossly violated, when the good of the Church requires it or when the Gospel values are at stake,” he said.

Father Dave Conception of Sta. Maria Goretti Parish in Manila explained that Catholic priests should not tolerate evil such as lying.

“The saying ‘Tell me who your friends are and I will tell you who you are’ is also applicable in saying, ‘Tell me who your candidates are and I will tell you who you are,” he told Catholic-run Radyo Veritas in response to Duterte’s U-turn.

“The Catholic Church is always non-partisan but it can never be neutral. It is always in the side of the truth. You cannot be in the side of God and yet do evil things,” he added.

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