MANILA - The government’s dialogue with the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) is still on, Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said Thursday, even as the tension between President Rodrigo Duterte and members of the clergy appeared to have died down.
“It’s still on. We will still arrange it. We are awaiting word from the CBCP kung sino iyong panel nila, because we have a four-man panel already,” Roque said in a press briefing in Zamboanga Sibugay.
“But it’s not taking a backseat, except that, you know we were all involved in the SONA (State of the Nation Address) preparations. So, parang tumigil iyong mundo namin sa (it's like our world stopped in) Malacañang for the SONA. But now that the SONA is over, we will resume particularly this dialogue.”
Duterte had earlier formed a four-man panel composed of Roque, political strategist and self-proclaimed civic leader Pastor “Boy” Saycon, Foreign Affairs Undersecretary Ernesto Abella, and Secretary to the Cabinet Jun Evasco to hold a dialogue with Filipino Catholic leaders.
The administration sought the dialogue following Duterte’s controversial remark calling God “stupid” as he spoke about the creation story in the Bible.
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.