MANILA, Philippines—The bloc-voting Iglesia Ni Cristo is expected to play a key role on who’s in and who’s out in this year’s senatorial elections especially in the tightly fought bottom three slots of the 12-seat race.
Aurora Rep. Juan Edgardo Angara said: “With a tight race, the INC blessing and solid vote may play a role for those fighting for the last few slots in the magic 12 since vote differences between these slots can be as little as a few hundred thousand.”
The INC recently issued a circular by Executive Minister Eduardo Manalo during worship services all over the country, advising its members not to get involved in any partisan activity or ask any favor from any candidates to avoid confusion in the flock’s electoral moves. It reiterated in the same circular that the “unity vote” would be strictly observed.
Senator Serge Osmeña, who has been actively pushing for common candidate Grace Poe, said: “The INC will always be helpful in close national contests, but even more helpful in local contests.” Osmeña did not specify any local battle but pundits pointed to the battle royale between Manila Mayor Alfedo Lim and former president Joseph Estrada as the showcase of INC’s vote-swaying powers.
The campaign managers of both Team PNoy and United Nationalist Alliance declined to comment. “I have no basis for any assessment I will make. Best that I pass on this one,” said Senator Franklin Drilon of Team PNoy.
Navotas Rep. Tobias Tiangco of UNA said, “I respect the INC so much that I cannot comment on that.”
Senator Vicente Sotto III, who has been helping Senator Gregorio Honasan and former Senator Richard Gordon, said that the INC would be a factor in the elections and he expected the candidates as well as their political patrons, President Aquino for Team PNoy and Vice President Jejomar Binay for UNA, to make a beeline to INC’s headquarters a few weeks before Election Day or before the announcement by the leadership of the 12 candidates it would endorse in May.
Sotto estimated that the INC bloc votes could yield a core base of 3 million votes to any candidate, which could ensure top billing for any of the front-runners (Senators Loren Legarda and Francis Escudero) or seal the deal for senators fighting for the last three places in the senatorial race.