MANILA, Philippines – A year after he got worldwide attention for cursing the leader of the Roman Catholic Church at a campaign rally, President Rodrigo Duterte wrote a letter to Pope Francis to personally thank him for visiting the country in 2015.
Chief Peace Adviser Jesus Dureza, who is in Rome for the 3rd round of talks with communist rebels, said in a public Facebook post he hopes to hand Duterte’s letter to the Pope during a side trip to the Vatican on Wednesday, January 18. (READ: Gov’t panel meets Duterte before critical 3rd round of talks)
In the letter, Duterte thanked the pope for his January 2015 visit despite the traffic it caused.
“We will be at Vatican in the morning to hopefully meet the Pope in the ‘bacciamano’ (kissing of the hand, done only on Weds) and possibly hand to His Holiness a personal letter of President Duterte thanking Him for the Phil papal visit last year,” Dureza wrote.
At a campaign rally in November 2015, Duterte cursed the pope for causing a traffic jam in Metro Manila when the then presidential candidate was in town. He immediately regretted the controversy after he was strongly criticized for attacking the pontiff, and claimed he was cursing the traffic itself, and not the pope.
The Duterte camp had written the pope a letter, which the Vatican warmly received 5 months later.
Duterte’s instructions to gov’t panel
The 3rd round of talks between the government and the National Democratic Front (NDF) will start on Thursday, January 19. The panels will tackle proposed reforms in the country’s socio-economic policies, political system, and the 1987 Constitution.
Duterte instructed the government negotiators to fasttrack the peace talks. “President Duterte has instructed the government panel to work for an early settlement of the issues as he calls on the nation to provide support to the efforts to ultimately bring peace in the land,” Dureza said in his statement on the 3rd round of talks.
The government will also try to save the 5-month-old ceasefire that the NDF has threatened to withdraw. (READ: Gov’t in backchannel talks to protect ceasefire with Reds)
Dureza remains optimistic despite the NDF’s new timeline, extending the talks by at least two more years. (READ: No peacedeal expected soon as NDF extends timeline of talks)
“These issues, although difficult, are surmountable with both sides sharing common aspirations for peace,” Dureza said.
“The preparatory work and engagements by both sides respectively headed by Secretary Silvestre Bello III and Fidel Agcaoili even before the 3rd round of talks auger well for possible significant progress with the hosting and facilitation of the Norwegian team headed by Ambassador Elisabeth Slattum,” Dureza added.
The Norwegian government, the 3rd party facilitator of the talks, agreed to move the venue from Oslo to Rome upon the request of the negotiators who asked for a warmer venue after many of them fell ill during the last round of talks in October. (READ: Chilling reason why PH, NDF talks moved from Oslo to Rome) – Rappler.com