Pope Francis of the Vatican and Rodrigo Duterte of the Philippines



By Apolinario Villalobos


In the August 2015 issue of the National Geographic, I found an item that details how the bombs of the USA and her allies devastated Laos during the controversial Vietnam War that rendered the laid back country into a crater-filled wasteland after the war. Laos is the venue of the ASEAN summit 2016 being attended by Duterte where he was supposed to meet Obama on the sidelines but unfortunately, did not materialize due to the impertinent question from a Reuter reporter which incited the Philippine president to “explode”.


The same issue of the magazine features the cover story about Pope Francis (Jorge Mario Bergoglio) which I did not give much thought at first. But after a nonchalant perusal, I was struck by several information on the pope that appear to be in synch with those about president Duterte’s.


Pope Francis was elected to the papacy just when the Vatican was at its darkest period due to piling up scandals that rocked the Catholic Church. The Philippines was in the same helpless situation in view of criminalities and political scandals, forcing the Filipinos to take the “risk” of voting for Duterte after realizing that the country needs a change that only one with a steely resolve can initiate.


The pope being from Argentina, broke the tradition of papal racial origin which should be either an Italian or at least a European. Duterte who claims to have a Muslim blood, is from Davao, a city in the southern island of Mindanao, broke the political tradition of the Philippines whose past Catholic presidents were from Luzon.


The pope, even while still in Argentina, was espousing the welfare of the have-nots. Duterte can cry unabashedly at the sight of an exploited, especially, raped and murdered innocents.


The pope considers himself a “street guy” or “callejero”, just like Duterte who shows his true humble color without hesitance if only to let those in the lower rung of the society know that he belongs with them.


The pope lives in a simple apartment, Casa Santa Marta, instead of the Vatican palace. Duterte’s staying at the guest house of Malacaἧan is just a compromise as given the choice he prefers to stay in a much austere accommodation. Both prefer the simple food that they used to partake.


The pope, while as archbishop in Argentina took the subway and had the habit of strolling along streets of unlikely nooks of Argentina. Duterte drove a taxi at nighttime to personally check on his constituents as best as he could, aside from using a simple pick-up type of car as his official vehicle as mayor of Davao City.


On the day of his proclamation as the new pope, Francis took the bus used to ferry the cardinals instead of the officially assigned limousine. Given the choice, Duterte preferred the old car that he used in Davao, instead of the luxurious one assigned to the president of the country.


Both Francis and Duterte are spontaneous…always, not afraid to blurt out what are in their mind…a feat that earned them enemies, albeit, during rare moments showed their down-to-earth person.


The pope has no plans of changing existing doctrines. The Filipinos are assured by Duterte of due process and fair justice system despite slight deviations that according to him are necessary  to help him in his cleansing efforts…and that, definitely, he will not resort to the Martial Law.


Francis has been telling friends that he needed to “start making changes right now”, since the day of his proclamation. Duterte is being propelled toward “changes” by his desire to have a transformation, hence, assuring the Filipinos that “change is coming”, thereby, seemingly in a hurry to cleanse the country of the drug menace and other forms of criminality first, to be followed by the rest of the cleansing that he promised to undertake.


Both are immensely misunderstood, though, unmistakably charismatic.



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