The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines announced on Saturday that it has elected its new president in Davao Archbishop Romulo Valles following an election.
Valles, who served as CBCP vice president for four years, will lead the influential episcopal organization, succeeding Lingayen, Dagupan Archbishop Socrates Villegas, who is set to step down this year.
Valles is reportedly close to the family of President Rodrigo Duterte, a long-time Davao City mayor. In March, Valles baptized Duterte’s youngest grandson Marko Digong Carpio, nicknamed Stonefish.
By tradition, a CBCP vice president becomes the next president. All CBCP officers have a two-year term and can run for a second term, giving them a maximum stay in office of four years.
Also elected as CBCP officers are Caloocan Bishop Pablo Virgilio David (vice president), Palo Archbishop John Du (treasurer), and Fr. Marvin Mejia (secretary general).
Born on July 10, 1951 in Bohol, Valles was ordained to the priesthood on April 6, 1976 and became a bishop on Aug. 28, 1997.
The Davao archbishop finished his Bachelor of Arts in Philosophy, and Theology degree from the St. Francis Xavier Regional Major Seminary in Davao City in 1972 and 1976, respectively.
He received his Licentiate in Sacred Theology in 1990 at the Pontificio Ateneo Sant’ Anselmo in Rome, Italy and his Master of Arts in Religious Education at the Ignatian Institute for Religious Education at the Ateneo de Davao University in 1997.
He is currently the rector of the St. Francis Xavier Regional Major Seminary, a position he has held since 1993.
Valles also led several commissions of the CBCP, including the Episcopal Commission on Liturgy, Commission on Prison Pastoral Care, and the Committee on International Eucharistic Congresses, among others.
Valles was the former archbishop of Zamboanga before being appointed to the Davao see in 2012.
In an August 2016 interview, retired Archbishop Oscar Cruz had expressed apprehension over the idea of having Valles as CBCP president, saying he is “rather close” to Duterte as they are both from Davao City.
“The closeness has nothing to do with what is right or wrong. It will have a relevance on how CBCP will look at the overall value of the actuation of the President of the Republic,” Cruz told ANC last year.
“Being from Davao himself, then the incoming, as presumptively incoming CBCP president, will definitely be more one with him than otherwise,” he added.
Valles will assume the top post of the CBCP at a time when the church and the administration has taken opposing sides on critical issues, among them Duterte’s fierce war on drugs and moves to revive the death penalty.
Villegas has been very vocal against these programs.
Last February, the CBCP issued a pastoral letter that said the government’s war on drugs has caused a “reign of terror” among Filipinos.
In response, Duterte has repeatedly slammed Church leaders, accusing them of corruption and hypocrisy.