MALACAÑANG on Tuesday announced that President Rodrigo R. Duterte is set to meet next week, July 9, with the president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP), Davao Archbishop Romulo G. Valles.
Meanwhile, Manila Auxiliary Bishop Broderick S. Pabillo challenged Presidential Spokesperson Harry L. Roque, Jr. on the latter’s remarks on Monday that some members of the clergy are “united with the CCP-NPA (Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army) in an effort to oust President Duterte.”
Regarding the meeting on Monday, Mr. Roque said on Tuesday: “Well, I confirm that this Monday, July 9, Archbishop Valles will be meeting with the President here in Malacañang. So, that’s the update on the dialogue. Although the President highlighted that this is really not unusual because they have had open communication lines with Archbishop Valles since he became President.”
Mr. Roque also clarified anew his remarks on Monday. “I should highlight that I did not generalize. Some may see it as a very minor clarification, but I was very clear. [I said] ‘some’ — not the [Catholic] institution itself.”
He noted that “some high-ranking leaders of the Church, prior to [Monday’s] statement,” made unnecessary comments about Mr. Duterte.
“You heard what Manila Auxiliary Bishop Broderick Pabillo said about the President — that God did not ordain him to be President. So, I think it’s always bilateral. If there is going to be a cessation of hostile language, I think it has to be from both institutions,” Mr. Roque said.
He said “it’s not just the President who should be told as we hold this dialogue, that perhaps there should be a ceasefire; it should also be told to some leading Church leaders as well.”
He added: “It’s been established. The CPP-NPA has been here for what, how many years already, 60 years, hindi pa ba tayo (are we not) familiar with the strategy — which is to build a National Democratic Front? There will be efforts on the part of the CPP-NPA to penetrate all sectors of society. That’s not new,” he said.
In a report by CBCP News on Tuesday, Mr. Pabillo was quoted as saying, “[Mr. Roque] should name names. (Otherwise), he is just spreading rumors. That is not responsible reporting. This is one way of spreading false news.”
Mr. Roque’s statement, according to Mr. Pabillo, “shows how insecure” the administration is. “They are so blinded by their fears and their biases that they cannot see their mistakes. They deflect on others their inefficiencies.”
The President’s spokesman, for his part, said the purpose of his statement was to “alert all institutions now that there’s all out — now that there’s no peace talks ongoing, expect the CPP-NPA to go back to its old ways.”
“There will be more of this noise, not just coming from the CPP-NPA, but also from forces that have embedded themselves in a different society. So, it’s a warning to everyone: we’re back to where we were in the past now that apparently we have set aside peace talks for the time being,” Mr. Roque said.
The spokesman likewise stressed that it is not the intention of Mr. Duterte’s administration to silence the Church.
He added: “We both serve the people. We should work for the benefit of the people. Pag nagtuligsa sila, asahan nila sasagot ang Presidente (If they denounce the President, expect him to respond)…. They can talk, but expect the President to talk back.” — Arjay L. Balinbin