Philippine Daily Inquirer - - NEWS - By Julie M. Aurelio @JMAure­lioINQ —WITH A RE­PORT FROMLEILA B. SALAVERRIA

Pres­i­dent Duterte is still open to talks with Catholic bish­ops whom he has re­peat­edly at­tacked for crit­i­cis­ing his bloody war on drugs.

Malacañang on Mon­day said the Pres­i­dent was ready to do “any­thing that is ben­e­fi­cial to the na­tion,” in­clud­ing re­sum­ing a di­a­logue that he ini­ti­ated last year with Church lead­ers.

“The Pres­i­dent is OK with all that. The Pres­i­dent is in fa­vor of any­thing that is ben­e­fi­cial to the na­tion. He’s OK with that. The Pres­i­dent is very easy to talk to,” pres­i­den­tial spokesper­son Sal­vador Panelo said.

Mr. Duterte sees no prob­lem re­sum­ing talks with the bish­ops if they ask for an­other di­a­logue to sort out their dif­fer­ences, he added.

“Of course, if they ask for it, the Pres­i­dent has no prob­lem with that. The Pres­i­dent will just say, ‘OK, OK,’” Panelo said.

Sotto me­di­a­tion

He made the re­marks fol­low­ing the of­fer of Se­nate Pres­i­dent Vi­cente Sotto III to me­di­ate be­tween Mr. Duterte and the bish­ops.

After call­ing God “stupid” last year, the Pres­i­dent cre­ated a three-man panel to hold di­a­logues with var­i­ous re­li­gious lead­ers.

He vowed to stop lash­ing out against the Church but even­tu­ally re­sumed his tirades against the bish­ops.

The Pres­i­dent last week told by­standers to rob and at­tack “rich bish­ops,” prompt­ing Sor­so­gon Bishop Ar­turo Bastes to say that such re­marks were a “se­ri­ous mat­ter.”

Panelo said that di­a­logue might have been for­got­ten by those who sought it.

“Filipinos are like that. If there’s a prob­lem, let’s talk, then after a while it is even­tu­ally for­got­ten, un­til it blows up again,” he said.

He stressed that Mr. Duterte was only de­fend­ing him­self from the Church’s crit­i­cism when­ever he lashed out at cler­gy­men.

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