Will Duterte go to hell or heaven?

Opinion & Analysis Jul 13, 2018 at 4:05 pm


Duterte’s Damnation and Lincoln’s Redemption

The 16th President of a religious nation not being religious? It’s just another similarity between Rodrigo Duterte and his hero Abraham Lincoln, both 16th Presidents of their respective republics.  But, though the question remains hotly contested by historians to this very day, there is ample evidence that suggests Lincoln, who was an unbelieving deist for most of his life, eventually became a Christian believer. Who knows? There may still be hope for our unbelieving, blasphemous 16th President.

By Jose Victor ‘Jayvee’ Salameña



By now, many of us are fully aware of the swirl of newest controversies surrounding the 16th President of the Republic of the Philippines, and once more the Filipino people in social media and around the world are up in an uproar over the supposed blasphemies of ‘Dirty Harry’ and his remarks supposedly targeted at the Almighty. It has stirred concern among Catholics and Protestants, and rejoicing among atheists and agnostics in the Filipino community. And it has surprised many that the leader of a nation of religious people was so brash and outlandish in his audacity to speak out his unbelief. Even I, a born-again Protestant who is an unabashed Duterte supporter, was taken aback at his statements, and also had to temper my support of him due to my disappointment in his remarks.

\I would like to point out, however, to my many kabayan that Duterte would not be the first Filipino president who was not a believer of traditional and mainstream Christian doctrine. In fact, Duterte would be joining a quite impressive list of “infidels” of Filipino history. The second President, Manuel Quezon, who is interred (buried) beneath a beautiful white monument that features three angels that tower above Quezon Memorial Circle in Quezon City (all named after him, duh) wrote in his autobiography The Good Fight that he mostly rejected his Roman Catholic upbringing, but instead was more a believer of God as a Supreme Architect in the interpretation of the Freemasons.

Even our own national hero (whose remains interred at Rizal Monument at Rizal Park, all named after him, duh) was considered an “infidel” by the Catholic Church. While in his younger years, he strongly considered the priesthood and becoming a Jesuit, the Gomburza Affair and other events of his life disillusioned Jose Rizal to Catholicism. Rizal’s magnus opus Noli Me Tangere featured Old Tasio cursing at John the Baptist, Ibarra Crisostomo questioning whether God sends people to hell, and on occasion quoted Voltaire, the infamous French infidel. So controversial was the Noli that Catholic schools were vehemently against making it required reading up until the 1960s.  And even minutes until death, it’s very unlikely that he had a change of heart regarding Catholicism. As Ambeth Ocampo wrote in The Death of Jose Rizal, “The Jesuits were the last to leave the condemned man. They raised the crucifix to his face and lips, but he turned his head away and silently prepared to meet death.”

Rizal Monument

Rizal Monument

Clearly our own Filipino history shows that one does not need be a saint to gain “secular sainthood” in joining our Filipino Pantheon of heroes. Even if Duterte remains the unbeliever that he is now, who knows? Maybe one day we will also see a Duterte Monument at Duterte Park in Duterte City.

But Duterte may find God in the same way his hero found God. It has already been reported that Duterte, the 16th President of the Republic of the Philippines, holds high esteem for the 16th President of the United States, Abraham Lincoln. On occasion, Duterte has quoted Lincoln. Indeed, Lincoln is one of the most beloved Presidents of America. And speaking of monuments, the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C. is America’s most beloved monument.

Modern historians are mostly in agreement that Abraham Lincoln spent some time in his life as a deist, who, like Duterte, believed in a god, but did not believe in the specific Judeo-Christian GOD of the Holy Bible. In 1936, the book Religious Beliefs of Our Presidents written by Franklin Steiner told a story that goes that when Lincoln ran for Congress in 1846, he was asked by his opponent, Peter Cartwright, a Methodist preacher who was said to have baptized thousands of people, whether Lincoln would go to Heaven or Hell. Lincoln calmly replied: To Congress. (Lincoln won that election, and because of that, went to Congress). Lincoln held this view upon entering the Presidency in 1860.

However, as the Civil War raged in the United States, there is ample evidence to suggest that Lincoln had a change of heart around 1863. In 1864, a newspaper article written in The Washington Daily Morning Chronicle tells the story of how he was gifted with a Bible, and he said of the Bible: “…it is the best gift God has given to man. All the good the Saviour gave to the world was communicated through this book.” Later that year, the newspaper Freeport Weekly Journal in 1864 reported that a pastor from Freeport, Illinois came to talk to the President about Lincoln’s faith. Lincoln was quoted as saying:

Lincoln Memorial

Lincoln Memorial

“When I left home to take this chair of state, I requested my countrymen to pray for me. I was not then a Christian. When my son died, the severest trial of my life, I was not a Christian. But, when I went to Gettysburg and looked upon the graves of our dead heroes who had fallen in defense of their country, I then and there consecrated myself to Christ. Yes, I do love Jesus.”

More proof of his change of heart can be seen in his later speeches (such as his second inaugural address) and his official Presidential proclamation of a “National Day of Prayer and humiliation”- wherein the proclamation Lincoln declared “… it is the duty of nations as well as of men, to own their dependence upon the overruling power of God, to confess their sins and transgressions, in humble sorrow, yet with assured hope that genuine repentance will lead to mercy and pardon; and to recognize the sublime truth, announced in the Holy Scriptures and proven by all history, that those nations only are blessed whose God is the Lord” (partially quoting Psalm 33:12).

Who knows? Like Lincoln, maybe one day we will also see a Duterte Monument at Duterte Park in a Duterte City. But like the question asked to Abraham Lincoln, where will Duterte be going? Heaven or hell? And I also dare ask you, my reader, this question. Where will you be going? Heaven or hell? It’s a question to ponder.

For those of us Filipinos who have the blessed assurance to know that because we put our trust in the Lord Jesus Christ, we are going to Heaven, I will remind us to follow the instruction of the Lord as written in 1 Timothy 2: 1-3:

I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people —  for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good, and pleases God our Savior,

Instead of just criticizing Duterte (and in many cases, we Filipino expats have a right and a duty to critique the President, and should in regards to his strong and often foul language, and the extra-judicial killings), let us also pray for him. Who knows? May Duterte, who recently called the Almighty a “stupid god”,  one day be like his hero Abraham Lincoln and say, “Yes, I do love Jesus”. And my prayer for you, my dear reader, when you yourself ponder these things, will one day begin the journey that many of us have been through before. A journey that ends in you yourself joining me and Abraham Lincoln in saying the statement:
“Yes, I do love Jesus.”