Palace: Duterte open to dialogue with Catholic leaders

Dharel Placido, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jun 14 2018 04:19 PM

President Rodrigo Roa Duterte, in his speech during the oath-taking ceremony of the newly-elected Punong Barangays of Central Luzon at the ASEAN Convention Center in Clark Freeport Zone, Pampanga on June 12, 2018. Valerie Escalera, Malacanang Photo

MANILA - President Rodrigo Duterte is open to a dialogue with Catholic Church leaders, his spokesman said, even as the chief executive continued with his tirades against members of the clergy.

“Kung dayalogo ay talaga naman pong bukas ang Presidente, bukas ang Palasyo lalung-lalo na po ngayon na ang Secretary-General (sic) ng CBCP (Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines) ay taga-Davao din. Sa tingin ko po iyan iyong isang advantage na kababayan ni Presidente ang tumatayong representante ngayon ng CBCP,” said Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque in a press briefing, referring to CBCP President and Archbishop of Davao Romulo Valles.

(The President is open to a dialogue, especially that the CBCP is led by someone from Davao. I think that is an advantage.)

Priests and laymen are puzzled and at a loss over President Rodrigo Duterte's continuing tirades against the Catholic Church.

Duterte has repeatedly criticized the church for its supposed hypocrisy. In a recent speech before Filipinos in South Korea, he even lambasted the concept of "original sin" while promoting a book that supposedly exposes corruption in the Catholic church.

Critics have slammed the government for failing to prevent the killings of three priests in the past six months. They said Duterte’s “persecution” of the church had emboldened the priests' killers.

The President denied persecuting members of the Catholic church, but he still went on to allege that one of the slain priests, Fr. Mark Anthony Ventura, was killed because of his affairs.

Roque said Duterte’s tirades against the church form part of his “personal convictions,” but this does not mean he condones the killings.

“Ang gobyerno po ay gagawin ang kanyang katungkulan, para po pigilan, itigil itong kultura ng impunity,” he said.

(The government will its duty to prevent the killings and end the culture of impunity.)

Rev. Fr. Richmond Nilo, parish priest of St. Vincent Ferrer Parish in the Diocese of Cabanatuan was gunned down just as he was about to begin Mass last Sunday. 

He was the third Catholic priest to be killed in a span of six months. 

In December 2017, Rev. Fr. Marcelito Paez was also gunned down by unidentified assailants after assisting the release of a political prisoner in the town of Jaen, Nueva Ecija.

In April 2018, Rev. Fr. Mark Anthony Ventura was also shot dead by an unidentified gunman after celebrating Mass in Gattaran, Cagayan.

Meanwhile, Fr. Rey Urmenta, a former PNP chaplain, survived an ambush in Calamba, Laguna last week.

The recent attacks against priests have prompted proposals to arm the clergy, but no less than the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines opposed the idea.