DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 19 July) — When news broke out on Friday that KalooKan Bishop Pablo Virgilio David will serve as Acting President of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) while its President, Davao Archbishop Romulo Valles, is recuperating from a stroke, Davao City parishioners were the most surprised: there had been no announcement in the city that the Archbishop had fallen ill.
Msgr. Paul Cuison, the Archdiocese’s Vicar General, broke the silence on Saturday, in a statement posted on Facebook: Valles is now recuperating at the Bishop’s Residence after his confinement in a hospital from May 23 to July 6 or 44 days.
Cuison, in a post shared by the Davao Catholic Herald as the “official statement” of the Archdiocese, said he received a text message from a friend in Manila a day earlier, asking about Valles’ health condition.
“As a close aide of the Archbishop, I am happy to let you know that he is getting back to his normal self in an almost miraculous way, with only a slight problem of his physical movement which is also showing great improvement,” Cuison wrote.
He said Valles was admitted in a hospital which he did not name, evening of May 23 and was discharged last July 6.
“The prolonged days in the hospital was due to some complications like the hospital-acquired pneumonia. But he has longtime been declared by his physicians as stable. In fact, he had already celebrated a private mass on his 69th birthday last July 10. I am optimistic that it would just be a matter of days and he will be back to celebrate public masses with the faithful,” Cuison said.
He added that social media has been “flooded with prayers for healing and expression of support from all over” and that it is “heartwarming to know that there are so many people who are showing deep concern and sincere love to our dear Archbishop.”
Until November 30, 2021
Fr. Francis Lucas, President of the Catholic Media Network Corporation announced on Friday, according to a GMA News report, that Bishop David, the CBCP’s Vice President, will be Acting President while Valles is recuperating.
Valles was elected President of the CBCP in July 2017 for a two-year term effective December 1, 2017. By tradition, the CBCP President is reelected for another two-year term. Valles’s term as President ends on November 30, 2021. As will David’s as Vice President.
David has been vocal about his criticisms of the bloody war on drugs of the Duterte administration and of late, the Anti-Terrorism Law and the denial by Congress of ABS-CBN’s franchise renewal.
Valles’ predecessor was also vocal. Lingayen-Dagupan Archbishop Socrates Villegas who was at loggerheads with President Rodrigo Duterte, openly criticizing him for alleged extrajudicial killings in his anti-illegal drugs campaign and for his campaign to restore the death penalty.
Valles, on the other hand, has not issued public statements against President Duterte on the controversial anti-illegal drugs campaign and alleged extrajudicial killings or on the death penalty. Friends of Valles say he uses a “diplomatic approach.”
When the CBCP issued a Pastoral Letter on Deaths and Killings on January 30, 2017 (“For I find no pleasure in the death of anyone who dies – oracle of the Lord God”) for reading in all masses in Catholic churches nationwide the following Sunday, February 5, Davao City’s parishioners were mostly unaware there was such a letter as it was not read in most masses.
Valles told MindaNews at the inauguration of the Ateneo de Davao’s Center Against Illegal Drugs on March 15, 2017 that he had the Pastoral Letter distributed but gave his priests an option to read or not read it in their February 5 masses.
“I decided na may option .. because I know my situation,” he said.
Valles speaks to Duterte in private. When Duterte cursed Pope Francis in his speech on November 30, 2015, the same day he was formally announced as the standard bearer of the PDP-Laban party, a priest close to Duterte linked him up with the Archbishop for a meeting on December 4, where Duterte swore he will try not to swear anymore.
“Hindi na ako magmumura dito (I won’t use swear words here). I’ll try to behave now, medyo holy na ako (I feel a bit holy) after visiting the Bishop,” Duterte said.
“I was admonished and lectured on Christian values and in return, I told them that I would lessen my use of cuss words. I am even regulating myself and will donate P1,000 to Caritas Davao every time I would swear,” he said in his TV program over ABS-CBN Davao on December 6, 2015.
Valles is the 20th head of the 75-year old collegial body.
In May, just before he fell ill, Valles issued three statements as CBCP President: “On the Closure of ABS-CBN” on May 7, “Recommendations and Guidelines for the Liturgical Celebration in ‘New Normal’ Condition” on May 16 and a circular on “Anticipating to celebrate our liturgy in the ‘new normal’ condition” on May 18.
Valles said his first thought upon hearing the news of ABS-CBN’s closure was “our people – our people who are in these extremely difficult and trying times because of the coronavirus pandemic.”
“Our people have lost one of our country’s major sources of information which is crucial to our people in this present situation,” adding they also lost a “source of entertainment and diversion” during the COVID-19 lockdowns since mid-March.
At the time of his letter, the cities of Davao and Zamboanga and Davao de Oro province were on extended enhanced community quarantine while the rest of Mindanao’s 27 provinces and 33 cities were on general community quarantine.
“I sincerely hope and pray that our government, especially our Congress, will work together to resolve the issue so that ABS-CBN may be allowed to resume its broadcast the soonest to the benefit of our people who really need as many as possible sources of good and reliable information in this time of suffering and distress,” Valles said.
Born in Maribojoc, Bohol, Valles graduated valedictorian at the Maryknoll High School in Lupon, Davao Oriental in 1968. He took up his Philosophy and Theology at the St. Francis Xavier Regional Major Seminary in Davao City, where he again topped his class.
Ordained priest in the Diocese of Tagum on April 6, 1976, Valles was named Bishop of Kidapawan on June 24, 1997 and Archbishop of Zamboanga on November 13, 2006. He was installed as the fourth Archbishop of Davao on May 22, 2012.
VP as acting President
CBCP News had earlier reported that David, a known Bible scholar, had been serving the Kalookan diocese since January 2016. He had earlier served as military bishop of San Fernando in Pampanga, from 2006 to 2016.
On July 16, David, as Acting President, issued a Pastoral Letter and a Call to Prayer titled “Sow for yourselves justice, reap in mercy. Break up for yourselves a new field, for it is time to seek the Lord, till he comes and rains justice upon you” where he expressed disbelief “about the manner in which the contentious Anti-Terror Bill was fast-tracked and approved” in Congress while the whole country’s attention was focused on the Covid-19 pandemic.
The letter was to be read in all churches nationwide on Sunday, July 19. MindaNews is still checking if it was read in the Catholic churches here.
David cited a “pattern of intimidation” of people active in social advocacies who get red-tagged or are falsely charged with sedition and inciting to sedition, the thousands killed on mere suspicion of involvement in criminality and illegal drugs, how Senator Leila de Lima remains in jail on the basis of mere allegations, media personalities being harassed by criminal charges, the chilling effect of the closure of ABS-CBN.
“Is it not evident to us how this pattern of intimidation creates an atmosphere detrimental to the freedom of expression in our country?” he asked.
“We pray for our public servants, our people in government, especially those among them who remain upright and continue to be motivated by a genuine sense of duty and love for country. Protect them, Lord, and give them the courage to stand their ground on the side of truth and justice,” David said. (Carolyn O. Arguillas / MindaNews)