Former President and now Pampanga Representative Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo on Sunday hosted a dinner for 18 bishops ahead of the private meeting between ally President Rodrigo Duterte and Davao Archbishop Romulo Valles, Malacañang said on Monday.
Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque, who attended the gathering at Arroyo's residence, said the former Philippine leader hosted the dinner "to emphasize the need for close relationship between the Church and State."
"It was a social dinner although there were prayers said and there was of course a general consensus that the Church and State should work together in upholding the general welfare of the people," Roque said at a news conference.
Valles, president of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines (CBCP), was not present at the dinner, according to Roque.
The Palace official said it was a traditional meeting Arroyo, a devout Catholic, has had with the bishops that only stopped when she was held in hospital detention over a plunder case in relation to the alleged misuse of state lottery funds during her term as president.
That case had already been dismissed by the Supreme Court in July 2016.
'No substantial discussion on rift'
Roque admitted that one archbishop raised the issue on Duterte's rift with the Church "but there was no substantial discussion on it because everyone’s awaiting the meeting between Archbishop Valles and the President."
The Palace spokesperson, however, announced during the dinner that the President shared the Church's stand against divorce, same-sex marriage, and abortion.
Duterte and Valles were scheduled to meet later Monday in an attempt to ease friction between the government and Catholic Church following the chief executive's remarks against Church doctrines such as the original sin and calling God "stupid."
No specific agenda was set for the dialogue which will be followed up by a meeting between the CBCP and four-man committee Duterte formed to talk to with religious leaders.
"Perhaps in the subsequent meeting there would be an agenda to be formulated and agreed upon by the parties but for now it will be a one-on-one private meeting between Archbishop Valles and the President," Roque said. — RSJ, GMA News