Duterte plans to visit Pope in Rome?

MAKING THE ROUNDS. Rodrigo Duterte speaks in front of Cebuanos during a gathering in Cebu City on January 7, 2016. Photo by Pia Ranada/Rappler

MAKING THE ROUNDS. Rodrigo Duterte speaks in front of Cebuanos during a gathering in Cebu City on January 7, 2016.

Photo by Pia Ranada/Rappler

Presidential aspirant Rodrigo Duterte seems to be taking his cursing of Pope Francis seriously.

According to sources close to the Davao City mayor, he plans to go to the Vatican to personally apologize to Pope Francis for his cursing. The trip is planned for end of January.

Duterte campaign manager Leoncio Evasco Jr however said his main target is really the tens of thousands of Filipino workers based in Rome. From the Middle East, which they are also planning to visit, Italy would not be too far away.

The two countries are home to overseas Filipino workers (OFWs), of which about 1.3 million are estimated to be voters. Add to that their family members and the number could easily rise to about 5 million, says Jun Evasco.

Duterte endured a deluge of public criticism after cursing the Pontiff over Metro Manila traffic during his visit to the Philippines. But immediately after the incident, he was unapologetic for the expletive, saying he did it "unintentionally." 

The presidential bet’s camp has been busy arranging his request for an audience with Pope Francis. Their request for an endorsement from Cardinal Luis Tagle was reportedly made in December 2015.

But there may already be a glitch. A source says the request has been rejected. Cardinal Luis Tagle supposedly did not give his endorsement because, come to think of it, if he endorsed it, what would stop other presidential bets from requesting the same? A beeline by Filipino candidates to the Vatican would be a nightmare.

But this doesn't mean Duterte won't be able to meet Pope Francis. Requests by individuals sent directly to the pontiff's staff had been granted in the past. Who knows if his supporters will be able to pull the right strings and press the right buttons?

While in Europe, Duterte might also meet with Jose Maria “Joma” Sison, founder of the Communist Party of the Philippines.

Sison now lives in Utrecht, Netherlands with his wife. He went into exile there after the end of the Marcos dictatorship.

Sison has told Rappler that a Duterte or Grace Poe presidency might convince him to come home. Duterte, a self-proclaimed Leftist at heart, is a known admirer of Sison. – Pia Ranada/Rappler.com