Duterte plans to visit Pope Francis but first state visit might be Brunei

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 12 May) – Presumptive president Rodrigo R. Duterte plans to visit Pope Francis to personally ask for apology but his first state visit may possibly be in Brunei in August 2016, his spokesperson said.

Duterte’s team will still have to review the state visit protocols of the Philippines before setting out on a visit to other countries, Peter T. Laviña said in a press briefing at the Duterte’s national headquarter Thursday.

Being a member of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), Laviña said that the newly-installed head of state might still have to visit any of the members of the economic region first before going to other nations.

The ASEAN is composed of Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, Indonesia, Lao, Malaysia, Myanmar, Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam, and Philippines.

He said Brunei’s sultan will host a “purely social gathering” for all the ASEAN heads of states sometime in August.

“That’s considered within the first three months of the new administration. He might visit Brunei if the invitation is so extended to meet everyone,” he said.

Laviña added that Duterte’s camp has been considering the possibility of visiting Pope Francis last December 2015 whether he gets elected or not into the presidency.

“Win or lose, he wants to visit the Pope not only to pay homage but to explain to the Pope and ask for apology,” he said.

Duterte came under fire when he cursed at the Pope at the tail-end of his speech during his formal declaration as the standard-bearer of Partido Demokratiko Pilipino-Lakas ng Bayan (PDP-Laban) in Manila last November 30 but he later explained that it was directed at the government’s mismanagement of the traffic situation, not at the Pope.

Last February 24, the Holy See, through Archbishop Giovanni Angelo Becciu, the Pope’s substitute for General Affairs, sent a two-paragraph reply letter to Duterte’s letter of apology.

“His Holiness Pope Francis has received your letter of January 21, 2016, and he asked me to respond on his behalf. He appreciates the sentiments which you expressed… The Holy Father offers assurance of his prayers for you, as he invoked upon you the divine blessings of wisdom and peace,” it said.

Laviña said that Duterte made the promise that “he will be acting and speaking in a manner that is becoming of a president.”