MANILA - President Rodrigo Duterte has formed a committee to hold a dialogue with the Catholic Church as the chief executive sought to mend ties with the institution and other Christian groups.
Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said the team will be composed of himself, political strategist and self-proclaimed civic leader Pastor “Boy” Saycon, and Foreign Affairs Undersecretary Ernesto Abella.
Roque said Saycon has been given instructions to contact the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) and that he would soon reach out to the Philippine Council of Evangelical Churches.
“Ang tema ng pag-uusap ay kung paano mabawasan ang hidwaan sa pagitan ng gobyerno at simbahan,” Roque said in a press briefing in Davao City.
(The theme of the discussions would be how to reduce tensions between government and the church.)
“Alam ko may separation of church and state, hindi kailangang makipagdayalogo, pero minabuti na ng presidente, sige buksan natin ang proseso ng dayalogo.”
(I know there's separation of church and state, there should be no need for dialogue, but the President thought it best to initiate the process of dialogue.)
The administration sought the dialogue following Duterte’s controversial remark calling God “stupid” as he spoke about the creation story in the Bible.
In a speech on Monday evening, he defended his remark saying it is true.
The President, who was born and raised a Catholic, claimed that he was not referring to his own God when he labelled God as stupid.
“Wala akong sinabing torpe ang ginoo ko (I did not say my God was stupid),” he said.
“Your God is not my God because your God is stupid. Mine has a lot of common sense.”
Duterte added that nobody has the right to “bind” him to a certain belief, and that it is up to him whether or not to believe in God.
“If I choose not to believe in any God, what’s the “f*****g thing about it? It’s about freedom to choose one,” he said.
He said he instead believes in a “universal being” who is “more supreme than the rest of the gods of men.”
Duterte has long criticized the leadership of the Catholic Church in the Philippines over alleged hypocrisy.
The Catholic Church has been a vocal critic of Duterte's war on drugs, citing unexplained killings. The administration has asserted that it was not behind vigilante slays and that those killed in drug raids had resisted arrest.