DAVAO Archbishop Romulo Valles has been elected president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines, succeeding Lingayen-Dagupan Archbishop Socrates Villegas, who served the organization for four years.
Valles, who is known to have close ties with President Duterte, was elected by his fellow bishops during the 115th CBCP Plenary Assembly last July 8 at the Pope Pius XII Catholic Center.
Fr. Jerome Secillano, executive secretary of the CBCP Permanent Committee on Public Affairs, said Valles’ election as CBCP president was an “advantage” for the Catholic Church.
“To say that [Valles’] closeness with President Duterte will compromise the Church is to underestimate the leadership qualities of the good bishop. The CBCP members did not elect a man without conviction. They elected an official who knows for sure what the Church stands for in these trying times,” Secillano told the Varsitarian.
Secillano said the new set of CBCP leaders would stand their ground amid the criticisms thrown at the Catholic Church.
“The bishops made the right decisions. The President, down to the regional representatives, make for excellent officers. They will represent the Church at a time when it is being criticized left and right,” he said.
Valles studied philosophy and theology at St. Francis Xavier Regional Major Seminary in Davao City. He obtained his licentiate in sacred liturgy in Rome’s Pontificio Ateneo Sant’Anselmo and master’s degree in religious education at Ateneo de Davao University.
He was ordained priest in 1976 and was appointed bishop of Kidapawan in 1997. He served as the bishop of Zamboanga in 2006 before being named archbishop of Davao by Pope Benedict XVI in 2012.
Valles was the CBCP vice president during Villegas’s term. He also served as chairman of the CBCP Episcopal Commission on Liturgy and a member of the CBCP Permanent Committee on Cultural Heritage of the Church.
Other members of the CBCP had nothing but good words for their new leaders, especially for the newly elected president.
For incoming CBCP vice president Pablo Virgilio David, Valles is an endearing and lighthearted person.
“He has a good sense of humor. He’s man who doesn’t take himself too seriously, kaya he’s very endearing. I think he will do well as president,” David said.
Valles, whom Secillano considers as an “excellent pastor,” is also said to be “very approachable, simple, and down to earth.”
Manila Auxiliary Bishop Broderick Pabillo echoed Secillano, saying the amicable relationship of Valles and Duterte would pave the way for dialogues between the Church and the state.
David, however, highlighted the separation of Church and state. He said the Church would continue to fight for what it believes in, such as the right to life and due process.
The reimposition of the death penalty and the enormous number of extra-judicial killings under the present administration rocked the relationship of the Church and state, prompting the former to speak out.
“There are avenues for collaboration. We will always find spaces for working together. But because the Church is the Church, we will make a stand on certain issues,” David said.
New officers, same Church teaching
For Secillano, the new set of CBCP officers should focus on the “seeming apathy” of Catholics on issues involving the right to life.
“It should focus more on the welfare of women and children, especially those victims of clerical sexual abuse. It’s an issue ad intra (from within) that begs the question on what the Church needs to do to rally behind Church people to reject such legislative agenda,” he said.
Secillano said the new officers would continue to adhere to the unchanging Church teachings and beliefs on the dignity of life, human rights, poverty, peace and environmental protection.
“The new officers will have the same lens but may possibly employ different method, approach or strategy. Whatever these new officers will do, I’m sure, will be for the good of the Church, the country and the people,” he said.
David said the new set of CBCP officers must also focus on the protection of the environment and peace in Mindanao.
He stressed the duty of the new CBCP officers to continue the preparations for the 500th anniversary of Christianity in the Philippines in 2021.
Filipino bishops elect a new president every two years. Bishops serving as president of the conference are allowed two consecutive terms.
Reelected were Palo Archbishop John Du as treasurer Fr. Marvin Mejia as secretary general.
The new set of CBCP officers will assume office in December and will serve until Nov. 30, 2019.