President Rodrigo R. Duterte has apologized to his “all-forgiving” God but noted that he was not saying sorry to any church or religious leader.
Duterte made his apology in a closed-door meeting with Jesus Is Lord founder and president Eduardo Villanueva at the Malago Clubhouse in Malacañang Park on Tuesday.
Also present during the meeting were Special Assistant to the President Christopher Go, Chief Presidential Legal Counsel Salvador Panelo, and lawyer Angelino Villanueva.
The church leader earlier urged the President to apologize for his statements about God and the Church but Duterte said he would only apologize to God and nobody else.
“Sorry, God. I said sorry, God. If God is taken in a generic term by everybody listening then that’s well and good,” Duterte said in a video posted on the official Facebook page of the Presidential Communications Operations Office.
“I only apologize to God and nobody else. If I wronged God, then he would be happy to listen to my apology. Why? Because my God is all-forgiving. He does not remember past hurts. Why? Because God created me to be good, not bad,” he added.
Duterte, meanwhile, reminded Villanueva and other religious leaders about the separation of church and state, saying it is wrong to use God to personally attack him and his administration.
“Remember that there is a division between church and state. You can criticize us anything at all— from the garbage collector to generals and even to vice president and senator,” Duterte said.
“But never, never use the name of God as a front to attack government because that is not the proper way to do it. There is a separation of state and church. Do not use God to attack me. That is not proper and I’m sure that is not what God wants,” he added.
Duterte earlier formed a four-man panel to hold discussions with Catholic Church and other religious leaders to improve their strained relations.
Panelo said the meeting in the Malago Clubhouse with Villanueva lasted for two-and-a-half hours.
“They discussed various issues including the remarks of the President on God,” said Panelo who arranged the meeting weeks after Villanueva urged the President to apologize to God in public, adding that the Jesus is Lord founder expressed dismay over the President’s recent remarks.
“Brother Eddie expressed appreciation on the [President’s] explanation... and said that he and other Christian groups misunderstood him. He asked permission… to pray with him and the former acceded,” Panelo said.
He added that Villanueva seemed “elated” after the meeting.
The national director of the Philippine Council of Evangelical Churches on Wednesday said that Duterte’s apology to God was an “act of humility.”
Bishop Noel Pantoja told GMA News he was elated over Duterte’s action, noting that the President proved that he also listens to the advice of religious leaders.
Senator Panfilo Lacson said firm believers in God like him would not have to consider withdrawing their support for the President.
“We can now move on while praying for his continued enlightenment,” Lacson said.
“I can only thank God for enlightening our President to make that humble apology. It shouldn’t matter much if it was my God or his God he is apologizing to, because there is only one God of the universe anyway,” said Lacson, an ally of the President.
He said it takes courage and character for a man to openly accept his mistake and apologize.
“This was how I knew the President in the many times that I was dealing with him when he was still mayor of Davao City,” he said. With Macon Ramos-Araneta, PNA
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