MANILA, Philippines – President Rodrigo Duterte could not make time for the Pope's Day event hosted by the Papal Nuncio to the Philippines on Friday, June 29.
Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said the President did not attend the event, a commemoration of the Feast of Saints Peter and Paul. Duterte was formally invited to the gathering by Papal Nuncio Archbishop Gabriele Caccia, Pope Francis' envoy to the Philippines.
Instead of attending Pope's Day, Duterte gave a speech in Tacloban City during the Sangyaw Festival of Lights. In attendance were Senator Cynthia Villar, Ilocos Norte Governor Imee Marcos, former senator Ferdinand Marcos Jr, and Tacloban officials.
The President will be represented at the Pope's Day event by members of his committee to dialogue with religious groups.
Roque said he himself would be there but would be arriving late as was he coming from another appointment in Cebu. Cabinet Secretary Leoncio Evasco Jr, meanwhile, was not feeling well.
"Evasco is sick and I will be late," said the spokesman in Filipino.
It was the committee that announced Duterte had been invited to the Pope's Day. The gathering was seen as one avenue for the President and leaders of the Catholic Church to discuss recent controversies, including Duterte's "God is stupid" remark.
The presidential outburst enraged not only Catholic Church leaders but also Christian groups, churches, and leaders. (READ: Duterte violated Constitution by calling God stupid – Brother Eddie)
The day before Pope's Day, Duterte declared he would never apologize for calling God stupid. – Rappler.com
Pia Ranada covers the Office of the President and Bangsamoro regional issues for Rappler. While helping out with desk duties, she also watches the environment sector and the local government of Quezon City. For tips or story suggestions, you can reach her at email@example.com.