VALLADOLID, Carcar City, Cebu, January 5, 2018–Weeks before his first Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) plenary assembly as CBCP president, Davao Archbishop Romulo Valles said he is committed to engaging the Duterte administration through open dialogue.
“Communication lines are open,” said the prelate during an exclusive interview with CBCPNews, when asked about the relationship between the Philippine bishops and the national government led by former Davao City Mayor and now President Rodrigo Roa Duterte.
This consideration of other view points, however, will always be weighed against Gospel values, explained the prelate.
“[Now matter] how [the government] proposes [their] critique, our standpoint is we come from the viewpoint of the Gospel and the teachings of the Church. We will continue to engage the government,” Valles said. He added he is “a little fortunate” because he and the president both come from Davao City.
While Valles downplayed media narratives that paint him as a close friend of President Duterte, he admitted, however that they are indeed friends.
He also mentioned knowing the president’s immediate staff, who all come from Davao City.
“Secretary Jun Evasco and I come from the same town, in Maribojoc, Bohol,” shared Valles. He revealed that Evasco’s mother assisted his mother when the would-be archbishop was born 66 years ago.
Early into his term, the prelate is stressing the collegial nature of the bishops’ conference.
Unlike political parties, the CBCP decides on “a matter of consensus,” explained Valles, where bishops themselves submit possible issues to be discussed during their plenary assemblies. This January, the plenary assembly will be held in the Archdiocese of Cebu.
In an interview on the sidelines of the exhumation and examination of the remains of the Servant of God Bishop Teofilo Camomot at the Daughters of St. Teresa convent, the prelate said that while the bishops share “bright ideas” for discussion, there are major plans of action that are, more or less, universally recognized.
“There is also a ‘set play’ like the nine-year preparation for the celebration in 2021 (quincentennial of the establishment of Christianity in the Philippines) which I cannot just suddenly change,” the 66-year-old archbishop said.
In terms of areas of improvement, Valles thinks the social action arm of the Catholic church should further strengthen its efforts in disaster preparedness and response, considering the number of natural calamities that recently hit the country, specifically the Visayas and Mindanao regions.
“While the social action arm is doing very well, we should learn from our weaknesses and respond to calamities soonest,” he stressed. He said there are still families in Davao temporarily staying at evacuation centers.
Valles expressed appreciation for the response from various dioceses to help the Prelature of Marawi and the survivors of the five-month armed conflict and the recent typhoons.
He also emphasized that the CBCP should focus on the laity, integrating the Catholic faithful, who are not members of the church-based organizations, into the Basic Ecclesial Communities “where they can play a more active role” in the Church. (Melo Acuña/CBCPNews)