(WB) The president of the Philippines on Sunday said he supports marriage rights for same-sex couples.

The Philippine Star newspaper reported Rodrigo Duterte told members of the LGBT community in Davao City on the island of Mindanao that he wants same-sex marriage in the Philippines, but “we’ll have to change the law.”

“We can change the law,” Duterte reportedly said.

“If that is the trend of the modern times, if that will add to your happiness, I am for it,” he added.

The Philippine Star reported Duterte also said he would name LGBT Filipinos to his Cabinet.

“I don’t have any problem with that,” said Duterte, according to the Philippine Star. “Now find me the brightest here in the Philippines. Give me a bright person. He might be gay, he might be lesbian. I’d like to nominate or appoint somebody upon the nomination.”

The Philippine Star reported Duterte in 2015 told a gay television host that same-sex marriage is “good.” The newspaper noted Duterte told a group of Filipinos with whom he was meeting in Myanmar that gays and lesbians should not have marriage rights in the Philippines, in part, because Western culture “does not apply to us” and the country is predominantly Roman Catholic.

Dindi Tan, secretary-general of LGBT Pilipinas, an advocacy group that is associated with the Mayor Rodrigo Roa Duterte National Executive Coordinating Committee (MRRD-NECC), which supports Duterte’s agenda, told the Washington Blade on Monday that she welcomes Duterte’s latest comments on marriage.

“We are grateful for having a president who has been the very first president in Philippine history to have publicly addressed an LGBT gathering pledging among others, the possibility of adopting same-sex marriage in the county and respect for LGBT rights,” said Tan.

Tan welcomed “with optimism” Duterte’s announcement that he will create a commission to oversee LGBT-specific issues in the Philippines.

“LGBT Pilipinas-MRRD NECC, being the largest network of LGBT organizations in the country, is hopeful that this plan gets to see the light of day during the administration of President Digong,” Tan told the Blade, referring to Duterte by his nickname.

Duterte, who is the former mayor of Davao City, has been president of the Philippines since June 2016.

The State Department last summer criticized Duterte for using an anti-gay slur to insult then-U.S. Ambassador to the Philippines Philip Goldberg. Human rights advocates have sharply criticized Duterte over his ongoing crackdown against drugs and his alleged ties to “death squads” when he was the mayor of Davao City.

White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said President Trump and Duterte “briefly” discussed human rights last month when they met in the Philippine capital of Manila during a meeting of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations. A spokesperson for the Philippine president told CNN that human rights “did not arise” during their meeting.


— Michael K. Lavers, Washington Blade courtesy of the National LGBTQ Media Association.