The Roman Catholic Church in The Philippines is not "against" controversial President Rodrigo Duterte, according to a church representative.

Fr Jerome Secillano, spokesman for the Bishops' Conference of the Philippines, told news agency Fides that the church "has nothing personal against Duterte".

"The church is simply critical of issues related to human rights, justice, respect for life, the rule of law, which it considers extremely important points," he said. "The church has the issues affecting the welfare of the people and the common good of the nation at heart."

He added that while the administration "thinks that the church is against the President", they "forget that the Bishops' Conference raised its voice against the abuses committed during Aquino’s administration and by other presidents in the past."

Fr Secillano said that despite the personal attacks made against the Roman Catholic hierarchy depicting priests as corrupt or advocates of sexual abuse,  "we are confident that people still harbor so much confidence in the Catholic Church".

Meanwhile, James Anthony Perez, president of the Catholic Association "Filipinos for Life", told Fides that he believes the church and President Duterte "confront each other for the same objective - justice and social peace, but the government intends to achieve it in ways which are considered unacceptable for the church".

Key issues on which the church stands in opposition to the government in The Philippines include the anti-drugs campaign and accompanying extra-judicial executions, the restoration of the deathy penalty and proposals to lower the age of criminal responsibility from 15 to nine. 

"Duterte embodies the desire of ordinary people who want justice and security," said Mr Perez. "The church is not against these objectives, but reminds the people that prosperity and justice are achieved through the recognition of the sanctity of human life first of all, not by its negation."