Cardinal Orlando Quevedo of Cotabato delivers a talk in Manila. (Photo by Mark Saludes)
A leading Filipino church official has called on the country's newly elected president to immediately address peace issues in the southern Philippine region of Mindanao.
"Implement the doable ... that does not need constitutional revisions," said Cardinal Orlando Quevedo of Cotabato.
Presumptive presidential nominee Rodrigo Duterte, mayor of the southern city of Davao, said he would work on revising the country's constitution to switch to a parliamentary and federal form of government.
Cardinal Quevedo, however, said federalism is a long-term project. "What needs to be done is in the nature of urgent and short term," he added.
The prelate said Duterte should start working on how to improve the proposed basic law for Muslims in the south that has been rejected by the Philippine Congress.
Cardinal Quevedo has been a vocal advocate for the passage of the Bangsamoro Basic Law, which peace advocates hoped would bring a formal end to four decades of war in Mindanao.
The prelate said that among all the presidential candidates, Duterte has the "credibility and knowledge" when it comes to issues concerning peace in the southern Philippines.
The cardinal also suggested that the Duterte administration should immediately work on the revision of school textbooks that perpetuate misinformation about the Moros and other tribal people in Mindanao.
"The new president should recognize and support the efforts of educational and religious institutions that focus some of their work on interreligious dialogue," said Cardinal Quevedo.
Consider church as an ally
The cardinal also urged Duterte to "consider the church not as an obstacle or as an enemy, but as a positive force and a partner for national development."
Duterte has repeatedly drawn the wrath of Catholic bishops for using bad language and even cursing Pope Francis for causing a traffic jam in Manila in 2015.
Church and religious leaders also criticized Duterte for his unabashed claim of being a murderer and a womanizer.
During the election campaign, several church officials tried to convince the public not to vote for Duterte because of his "anti-life" pronouncements.
Cardinal Quevedo said Duterte should understand that "the church will be critical on the basis of moral and religious values and not on the basis of political partisanship."