THE newly elected president of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines, Archbishop Romulo Valles of Davao, will begin his term of office in December. He is friends with President Rodrigo Duterte, who is also from Davao.
Archbishop Valles will succeed Archbishop Socrates Villegas of Lingayen-Dagupan, who finishes his second and final term as CBCP head.
Valles, 66, will be the 20th head of the Philippine Catholic Church’s Episcopal conference, the collegial body of bishops, which was formally founded 72 years ago.
As CBCP president, Archbishop Valles will lead the 83 active bishops, five diocesan administrators and 43 honorary members of the CBCP from 86 ecclesiastical jurisdictions.
Bishop Pablo Virgilio David of Kalookan was also elected CBCP vice president in the election held at the Pope Pius XII Catholic Center in Manila on Saturday July 8.
CBCP officials have a two-year tenure in their first term of office, and serve for another two years after being reelected.
Ordained a priest in 1976, Romulo Valles was appointed bishop of Kidapawan in 1997. In 2006, he was named archbishop of Zamboanga and served until 2012, when he was transferred to head the Davao archdiocese.
He and President Duterte had opportunities to work together when the latter was mayor of Davao City for some 20 or so years. Elected mayor in 1988, Duterte sought to eliminate criminal activity in Davao. As mayor he also earned praise for helping make Davao City a model clean city.
As Philippine President, he will be reporting his biggest accomplishments after one year in office in his state of the nation address on July 24. He is expected to talk about reducing by more than half the incidence of crime in general and by almost 80 percent the drug crimes and drug addiction in the country.
Critics have, however, have pointed out the massive escalation of the violent deaths of known neighborhood drug pushers and dealers.
New CBCP President Archbishop Valles could make his organization do the extraordinary by working with President Duterte in anti-drug operations—offering to drug criminals the firm but friendly hand of the people working for God and the Church lest they suffer execution by Duterte’s anti-crime operatives.
In addition, the Archbishop should make his friendship with the President count in terms of persuading Mr. Duterte to be more openly cooperative with Church-affiliated NGOs in their humanitarian, educational and social-work initiatives.