PRESIDENT Rodrigo Duterte is not “anti-catholic” but was merely dispirited when he received an “adversarial” response from the Catholic Church regarding his deadly anti-drug war, his spokesperson said on Friday.

This was what Presidential Spokesperson Ernesto Abella had to say following the President’s series of attacks against the Church.

“I’m giving an opinion that what the President is really expecting is not an adversarial approach. The President is quite open to listening to other opinions but perhaps, it seemed to him that the comment was coming from a moral high [organization], even though we all have shortcomings,” Abella said in a radio interview.

In his speeches delivered this week, Duterte had vented ire on the Church for nitpicking the administration’s deadly war on narcotics trade that claimed the lives of over 6,000 alleged drug personalities.

Duterte on Wednesday lashed out at priests for questioning his intensified campaign on drugs and suggested that they should “use shabu” so they would know that the drug problem in the country is becoming virulent.

A day after, the chief executive took a swipe anew and said that the Church should instead preach about the drug menace, instead of focusing on the rising death toll of drug suspects.

Abella said Duterte only wanted Filipinos to realize that the drug problem was so “deep and wide” and that there is a need to address the situation firmly.

He said Duterte was just triggered to lambast the Church, after Novaliches Bishop Emeritus Teodoro Bacani expressed alarm over the war on drugs waged by the Duterte administration.

On Wednesday, Bacani appealed to reject “merciless ways of dealing with the most miserable, including drug addicts.”

“What happened is – the way I’m seeing it – we become very adversarial towards one another. And I suppose it’s where the President seemed to be really coming from – that the other institutions don’t seem to be able to appreciate that something is being done, and that for example, a million of people have already surrendered and there’s a lot of work to do,” he said.

Church urged to talk to Duterte

Abella said the Catholic Church may open a dialogue with the President to raise their concerns over the alarming deaths in the country.

He said the administration and the Church should make amends so they could both “build together a nation worthy of the Filipino[s] and Filipinos worthy of the nation.”

“I would encourage the good bishops to have a dialogue, you know, let’s talk,” the presidential spokesperson said.

”Let’s go beyond the tirades. Let’s try to reach out first [to] have a real dialogue and a real conversation.” (SunStar Philippines)