To mark the Fifth Sunday of Lent or official start of Holy Week, Catholic Church leaders separately delivered a homily calling for the replacement of President Duterte in the 2022 national elections for being a “bully President” and for fumbling the coronavirus crisis.

Archdiocese of Manila apostolic administrator Broderick Pabillo said the national elections set for May 2022 give Filipinos the opportunity to “let go of the old and get hold of the new.”

Novaliches Bishop Teodoro Bacani said we have a “bullied people led by a bully President,” as gleaned from a Social Weather Station (SWS) survey showing that majority of Filipino adults believe it would be dangerous to criticize the administration.

Bacani emphasized that the SWS survey reflected badly on the country’s leaders, as many Filipinos hesitate to criticize the government not out of respect but out of fear.

As to the government’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic, Pabillo noted that the Philippines has been left behind by neighboring countries Vietnam, Thailand, Malaysia, and Indonesia.

Many Filipinos have more difficult lives compared with how they did years before the COVID-19 pandemic. Pabillo also said the lockdown lead to many becoming unemployed and the scarcity of relief goods.

He said, “We have to die to the old to bring about a new reality. This is the Paschal mystery. This is true for our personal lives, and this is true for our country also or for any situation of life, for that matter.”

Pabillo added vaccines are not enough.  “We need leaders who we can follow with respect and admiration. Only the people can bring this about with God’s grace. May God give us the leaders we need in these trying times,” he added.

The latest SWS survey showed that 65 percent of Filipinos agreed that it is dangerous to publish or broadcast anything critical of the administration, even if it is the truth. The survey conducted face-to-face interviews with 1,500 adults from November 21 to November 25 last year.

Sorsogon bishop Arturo Bastes said, “Filipinos should learn a lesson. Not to criticize the government can lead to dictatorship. We must have the courage to expose what is evil in society. We are a democracy. In our system, power emanates from the people. Those who govern are at the service of the people,” Bastes said.

“People have the right to criticize the government if it fails to do its duty of giving good service to the country. Totalitarian government like the one in China will not and cannot tolerate criticism,” the prelate said, adding the democratic system should be allowed to work.