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Southeast Asia, explained

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Miriam Defensor-Santiago, a senator and veteran lawmaker in the Philippines. (AFP/AFP/Getty Images)

In the eyes of a well-known Catholic "spiritual advisor" to top-tier Philippine politicians, becoming "worthy of the fires of hell" is rather easy.

You just call someone a "gago."

(That's "fool" in Tagalog, the heavily Catholic nation's official language.)

A veteran female lawmaker in the Philippines, Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago, did just that on television while chastising fellow senators for mishandling an allegedly corrupt judge's impeachment trial. Explosive language is typical of the senator, whose own bio delights in calling her a "dragon lady."

The ensuing fallout from her remarks has sparked a very Filipino approach to verbal battle: tit-for-tat Biblical references.

According to a well-known priest, Father Catalino Arevalo, the senator shall be banished to a realm of eternal suffering if she doesn't repent.

The Philippines-based Inquirer reports the priest as saying:

“If you call anybody ‘you fool,’ you are worthy of the fires of hell. And she called them gago, which is Filipino for fool, before millions of people.”

He cited Matthew 5:20, which contains this passage: "And if you insult a brother or sister, you will be liable to the council. And if you say, ‘You fool,’ you will be liable to the fires of hell."

Here's how Defensor-Santiago, who holds a masters in theology, shot back, according to the ABS-CBN News:

"Under (the Second Vatican Council), there is no hell. But even if there is, there is nobody there ... The Bible should not be read literally, but should be read in its Aramaic context."

Hell, she told ABS-CBN News, is simply "a metaphor for distance from God."

Then she pulled out the big gun.

"That priest should spend his energy fighting pedophilia within the Catholic Church," she told ABS-CBN, "instead of meddling in politics."

http://www.globalpost.com/globalpost-blogs/southeast-asia/miriam-defensor-santiago