Sotto seeks to mediate between Duterte, Catholic Church

MANILA, Philippines – Senate President Vicente Sotto III seeks to mediate between President Rodrigo Duterte and the Catholic Church amid ongoing animosity between the two.

Sotto, a Catholic, said the issue must be addressed, as many Filipinos are uneasy with the situation.

"Marami na kasi sa mga kababayan natin ang (Many of our fellowmen are already) uncomfortable with the situation," the Senate president told reporters in an interview on Monday, January 14.

"May nababato at bumabato pabalik, ang Palasyo at members of the Catholic Church (There are attacks and counterattacks, the Palace and the members of the Catholic Church)...especially the bishops and the priests, so might as well try to find a dialogue. Subukan ko lang, wala namang mawawala (I'll just try, there's nothing to lose)."

Sotto said he already sent "feelers" to the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) through "mutual friends." He also said he might be able to talk to Duterte this week.

"Wala pa kaming maliwanag na usapan pero (There are still no clear talks yet but) I am trying to get in touch with the leadership of the CBCP and find out more about their perspective. And then at the first chance that I get to talk to the President, we'll try to mediate if it's possible at all. If not, at least we tried," Sotto said.

As for Duterte, Sotto said: "As soon as I can. Within this week siguro, baka naman may chance kami mag-usap (we might have a chance to talk), especially after the decision on the Road Board, I will have to report it to the President."

Sotto is a supporter of the Catholic Church and its views, including on the controversial reproductive health law and the divorce bill.

In contrast, Duterte has repeatedly launched tirades against the Catholic Church, which strongly opposes the government's bloody anti-drug campaign.

Duterte, in the guise of a joke, called for the killings of bishops and priests. He also made false accusations against a Caloocan City bishop critical of his administration. (READ: Duterte to tambays: Steal from, kill 'rich' bishops)

Presidential Spokesperson and Chief Presidential Legal Counsel Salvador Panelo defended Duterte by saying that his threat was just for "dramatic effect." – Rappler.com

Camille Elemia

Camille Elemia is Rappler's lead reporter for media, disinformation, and democracy. She won an ILO award in 2017. She received the prestigious Fulbright-Hubert Humphrey fellowship in 2019, allowing her to further study media and politics in the US. Email camille.elemia@rappler.com

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