Duterte is open to hold talks with Church heads

THE Duterte administration is willing to have a dialogue with Church leaders.

Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque on Saturday said this as he echoed the willingness of President Rodrigo Duterte to enter into a dialogue with Catholic Church leaders.

“The President always listens to all Filipinos, including the Church. And I think the President would even be more interested to listen to the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP), now that the head is from his own city,” Roque told reporters in an interview in Cebu City.

Davao Archbishop Romulo Valles, the new president of the CBCP, recently said he was committed to engaging the Duterte administration through an open dialogue.

“Communication lines are open,” he said in an interview with CBCP News.

Valles, however, reminded the administration that the Church will always stand by the teachings of the Gospel.

“(No matter) how (the government) proposes (their) critique, our standpoint is we come from the viewpoint of the Gospel and the teachings of the Church. We will continue to engage the government,” he said in the same interview.

President Duterte earlier went on the offensive against the Catholic Church whose bishops and priests repeatedly spoke against the summary killings resulting from the government’s brutal war against drugs.

On one occasion, he described the Catholic Church as the “most hypocritical institution” and lambasted the bishops for the supposed sins committed by the clergy.

Since the war on drugs started, the Philippine National Police (PNP) said at least 6,225 persons were killed, most of whom were gunned down after they allegedly engaged with the police in a shootout.

The numbers presented by the PNP, however, were way lower than the figures gathered by human rights groups which estimated the death toll in the administration’s anti-narcotics campaign at 13,000.

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