On Sunday Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte dealt a belly blow to the gay community that helped get him elected into the presidency. In a meeting to Filipinos in Nay Pyi Taw, Myanmar he stated “Yun ang kultura nila. Eh di kayo lang, hindi ‘yan pwede sa amin. Katoliko kami at (That’s their culture [referring to gay marriage]. It does not apply to us. We are Catholics and) there is the Civil Code, which says that you can only marry a woman for me… for a woman to marry a man,” with this he effectively broke his promise to the gay community. This is in stark contrast to candidate D30 where he expressed support for marriage quality saying it was ‘good’ and that ‘everyone deserves to be happy.’
The catholic church is a powerful political force in the Philippines despite its constitution which specifies the separation of church and state. The Catholic church has taken down two presidents it didn’t like Ferdinand Marcos and Joseph Estrada after that. Despite Duterte’s vulgar language towards the catholic church in the past he realizes that he still must respect their power. It is curious that the church has remained silent on his war on drugs which so far has killed at least 2000 Filipinos even though the church is facing constant pressure from the west to speak out. The fact remains that ‘no man rules alone’. As explained by This video here
Like every ruler Duterte must decide who he needs in order to stay in power and who is expendable. As time has passed you’ve seen Duterte’s tone on the catholic church moderate while his rhetoric against the west has stayed the same. In the same speech on Sunday he said “we are catholics” while also saying lambasting the west–in this case the European Union– stating “Itong mga buang na ’to, hindi ko talaga… (I can’t understand these fools). Why are you trying to impose on us? Why don’t you mind your own business? Why do you have to you know, f@#k with us, goddammit,”
The Philippine president has made the political calculation to distance himself from the west which was a major source of revenue for the country and align himself with the catholic church. In the beginning of his presidency he excoriated both. This is part of the juggling game that comes with power. If he had no allies Mr. Duterte would find himself out of a job or much worse as soon as the oligarchy grew tired of his reckless rhetoric. It is also worth noting American president Donald Trump has moderated his tone since taking office.
This doesn’t mean that there’s nothing we can do as gays however. Once we show the politicians its advantageous to them to support us the support will come. Just as it has in the United States. As the secularization of the country continues more and more progressive legislation will be passed. The church was dealt a major blow when it lost its battle to stop contraceptives from being distributed by the government. Its important to note that being gay does not be mean one is anti-God. Duturte got it right the first time when he stated that God made all of us and if he didn’t want us to be together then why did he make us this way? We must continue to make our voices heard and win the hearts and minds of the populace so that our love too can be celebrated.