VATICAN CITY (CNS) — The defense of human rights and the safeguarding of democracy throughout Southeast Asia were on the agenda as Pope Benedict XVI and his secretary of state met Philippine President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. The pope and Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, Vatican secretary of state, met separately with the president June 4 at the Vatican. The meetings focused on church-state cooperation in the Philippines and “on the respect and promotion of human rights and democratic institutions” in the country and throughout Southeast Asia, the Vatican said in a statement. Marciano Paynor, the president’s chief of protocol, told reporters before the meeting that Arroyo intended to outline for Pope Benedict her efforts to put a halt to the wave of extrajudicial executions and election-related violence in the country. Paynor, traveling with the Philippine president, also said she wanted to invite Pope Benedict to visit the Philippines in July 2008 on his way to or from the celebration of World Youth Day in Sydney, Australia. At the end of her audience with the pope, Macapagal-Arroyo asked him to bless two large piles of rosaries, crucifixes and religious medals placed on silver trays for the occasion.