Religious leaders invited to Council of State for first time

Manila, Philippines – Top religious leaders in the Philippines have been invited to join the Council of State meeting to discuss national developments together with politicians on 24 January.

An official of the Presidential Palace said the invitation to religious leaders was made in “an attempt to unite politicians from opposing sides” to discuss, “without tension”, useful measures to attain “the common good of the country”.

Cardinal Ricardo Vidal, archbishop of Cebu, is among those invited, as are El Shaddai leader, Mike Velarde, and Iglesia ni Cristo minister, Era Manalo. "Our religious leaders could help to bridge differences to overcome political differences”.

Jose de Venecia, Parliament speaker, said it was the neutrality of the Church towards government affairs which had prompted the idea. “We will all listen to their wise counsel as they have always been immersed with the people,” he said.

Gabriel Claudio, Presidential Adviser on Political Affairs, is organising the meeting. “We will discuss many things but among the most pressing issues will be proposals to amend the Constitution, electoral reforms and efforts to maximize prospects and opportunities for an economic takeoff for the country,” he said.

Claudio described the Council as “the most important consultative body of the country” with the participation of the President, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, the President of the Senate, leaders of large political parties, the cabinet and local leaders.