MANILA - President Rodrigo Duterte on Wednesday again hit the Catholic Church, citing what he described to be its “creeping influence” over the society.
In a speech during the 31st founding anniversary of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), Duterte expressed misgivings on the “creeping influence of [Catholic] faith” which “sometimes run counter to what the government believes to be good for the people, at least in this temporal life.”
The President said this in the context of his push for artificial family planning, a method disapproved by the Catholic Church. Some 80 percent of Filipinos belong to the faith, and Duterte himself was born and raised a Catholic.
Duterte, as long-time mayor of Davao City, had pushed for the use of artificial birth control methods in managing the city’s population.
The President believes that managing the population is key to ensuring a better life for every Filipinos.
The influential Church had played a big role in the opposition against the Responsible Parenthood and Reproductive Health Act of 2012, which was declared constitutional in 2014 by the high court except for some of its provisions.
Duterte had earlier drawn criticism from the Catholic Church for some of his other policies, including the war on drugs, his push for the revival of death penalty, and lowering the age of criminal responsibility.
Tension has been high between Duterte and the Catholic hierarchy and other Christian groups of late after the President called God “stupid” and raised questions about certain Church doctrines and beliefs, such as the story of creation, the concept of heaven and hell, and the Last Supper.
Reeling from the outrage over his controversial remark, the President formed a team to hold a dialogue with leaders of the Catholic Church and other Christian groups.
Duterte is set to meet Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines president Romulo Valles on July 9 in an attempt to ease the friction between the government and the Church.