MANILA - The Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) is set to elect its new president who will succeed Davao Archbishop Romulo Valles.
After two terms at the helm of the influential group of Filipino bishops, Valles will step down at the end of November this year along with other elected officials.
Over the past years, the bishops have been electing their vice president as the next president of the group.
Should the prelates continue with this tradition, the next CBCP president may be Caloocan Bishop Pablo Virgilio David — one of the most outspoken from the Philippine Catholic hierarchy and a critic of President Rodrigo Duterte's violent drug war.
The CBCP will begin its two-day meeting on July 8 with a final address from Valles. Like in the previous year, the meeting will be held online due to the threat of COVID-19.
Before the meeting, the bishops will also undergo a two-day online retreat on July 5 and 6.
Aside from electing a new president, the bishops will also choose a new vice president and nine regional representatives of their Permanent Council.
In a report from CBCP News, Msgr. Bernardino Pantin, the group's secretary general, said the bishops will also vote for a new treasurer and heads of its various commissions.
The newly-elected leaders will assume their post on December 1, 2021.
The CBCP usually issues pastoral statements after its plenary assemblies.
Valles was first elected president of the CBCP in 2017, succeeding Lingayen-Dagupan Archbishop Socrates Villegas. He was re-elected for another term in 2019.
According to the CBCP constitution, its officials have a two-year tenure, or a total of 4 to include the 2nd term when re-elected.
Under the Davaoeño archbishop, the CBCP continued to issue statements on various social issues, including government policies. But the group's statements were strikingly subdued compared to scathing comments under Villegas.
Valles is a friend of the Duterte family.
Still, in 2018, Valles defended David from Duterte's allegations, including his alleged involvement in illegal drugs and pocketing church donations.
But even after a meeting between Valles and Duterte in Malacañang, the president's attacks against the Catholic Church and its bishops and priests continued. Duterte even called the Church the "most hypocritical institution."
Aside from dealing with the remaining months of the Duterte administration, the newly-elected officials of CBCP would tackle the continuing celebration of the 500 anniversary of Christianity in the Philippines, the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic, and the upcoming 2022 national elections.
The prelates will also prepare for the upcoming 2023 Synod of Bishops in the Vatican.