Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte is seen during a diplomatic event in Manila in September 2017. Photo: Reuters

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has come out in support of same-sex marriage in an about-turn that has added further tension to already strained ties with the country’s powerful Catholic Church.

In a speech at a gathering of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people in Davao, his hometown, on Sunday, Duterte vowed to protect the rights of homosexuals. He also invited them to nominate a representative to work with his government on the issue.

“I am for [same] sex marriage if that is the trend of modern times,” he said. “If that will add to your happiness, I am for it.”

The news stirred an immediate reaction – strong opposition – from the Catholic Church and other religious groups.

Sorsogon Bishop Arturo Bastes said on Monday that the Catholic Church could never approve of same-sex marriage and called on Filipinos not to allow it.

The Philippine Council of Evangelical Churches also issued a statement saying that homosexual unions “directly contradicts a central teaching of Islam and Christianity — that marriage is only between a man and a woman”, the Inquirer.Net reported.

Duterte had previously opposed same-sex marriage and criticized liberal Western countries that allowed it, notably nations that attacked his deadly war against drugs, which has led to the killing of thousands of Filipinos.

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