Duterte dialogue with church leaders draws mixed reactions from senators
Senators gave mixed reactions as Malacañang revealed on Tuesday that President Rodrigo Duterte has decided to talk with religious leaders after a controversial remark where he called the Christian God “stupid.”
Opposition Senator Antonio Trillanes said in a statement that the president’s initiative is merely damage control, as the remark has spurred outrage from many Filipinos.
“That is nothing but a crisis management move by Malacañang to contain the outrage caused by Duterte’s tirades against God,” Trillanes, a staunch critic of the president and his administration, said.
“It has no value at all because it was committed by a clearly unrepentant Duterte against all Christians and not just the Church leaders,” he added.
Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said that President Duterte has formed a three-man committee, which includes him, Foreign Affairs Undersecretary Ernesto Abella, and Council for Philippine Affairs Secretary General Pastor Boy Saycon, to hold a dialogue with the leaders of the Catholic Church and other religious organizations.
This comes after the president asked, “who is this stupid God” in a speaking engagement last Friday in Davao City. Roque had earlier defended the president, saying that the remark was instigated by the President’s frustration with the Catholic Church, and that everyone should enjoy religious freedom.
Senator Joel Villanueva, however, believes that President Duterte’s move is a better way to move forward.
“Instead of perpetuating hate, we should respect each other’s faith and beliefs. I think a dialogue that is geared towards respect and inclusivity is a step in the right direction,” Villanueva, who has previously asked Christians to pray for the president, said in text message.
Senator Sherwin Gatchalian also believes that the move is a testament to the leader’s willingness to mend the discord between him and the faithful.
“The President’s initiative to form a panel which will engage leaders of the Catholic Church and other religious denominations shows that he is open to working on his relationships with religious leaders,” Gatchalian said in a statement.
“I hope these dialogues will end up fostering mutual respect, cooperation, and understanding between the President and the religious faithful,” he added. /ee
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