Church open to talks with gov't, awaits formal Palace invite

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jan 21 2017 11:36 AM

Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) Intramuros, Manila. Jonathan Cellona, ABS-CBN News

Church leaders are willing to open talks with the government regarding controversial issues such as the war on drugs, but they will first need to discuss it among themselves, and receive a formal invitation from the Palace.

“Mas maganda sana na may pormal na imbitasyon, na hindi lang nailabas sa media. We are interested to thresh out any differences that we have [with President Rodrigo Duterte],” said Fr. Jerome Secillano, executive secretary for public affairs of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP), in an interview on radio dzMM.

There needs to be a dialogue, the priest said, because while they prefer different methods, the Church also wants to deal with the drug problem.

The issue will most likely be brought up during the CBCP's plenary assembly on January 25-30.

On Friday, Presidential Spokesperson Ernesto Abella said that they want to reach out to the Church to have “a real dialogue and real conversation.” This was days after Duterte again lashed out at priests and bishops for criticizing his war on drugs.

Responding to Duterte’s tirade, lambasting the clergy for its alleged neglect of people’s welfare in favor of their own comfort, Secillano said that the president may have lacked knowledge of the Church’s good works.

“Ang simbahan, may nakatayong facilities yan para sa drug rehabilitation… May iba't ibang programa pa ang ibang diocese na sugpuin itong lumalaganap na problema sa droga,” he said.

According to Secillano, Catholic dioceses implement “community-based” approaches to fight drugs, which are often in partnership with government agencies and the police.

“Sa tingin ko kung mayroon lang nag-advise sa ating presidente na mayroon naman palang ginagawa na ganyan ang simbahan ay baka sakali na hindi niya sasabihin ang mga bagay na nabanggit niya,” he said.

Despite their willingness to reach a compromise with the government, however, the priest clarified that they will not stop airing their views on political issues.

The Church is also an “interest group” with its own concerns, he said. Why should they keep quiet if they will also be affected by policies which go against their beliefs?

“Mga commuters, transport groups...narinig ba natin silang manahimik [sa isyung mahalaga sa kanila]?”