The Iglesia ni Cristo (INC) is leaning toward a 7-5 senatorial slate favoring the administration coalition’s Team PNoy over the “opposition” United Nationalist Alliance (UNA), as the block-voting religious sect tries to appease both President Aquino and Vice President Jejomar Binay.
Multiple sources from the Senate and the House of Representatives came up with a virtually common list of the INC’s favored candidates for the senatorial elections in May.
The seven Team PNoy candidates that the INC is endorsing are Juan Edgardo Angara, Paolo Benigno Aquino IV, Alan Peter Cayetano, Loren Legarda, Grace Poe, Antonio Trillanes IV and Cynthia Villar.
The five UNA candidates the sect is supporting are Nancy Binay, Joseph Victor Ejercito Estrada, Jack Enrile, Richard Gordon and Gregorio Honasan II.
As in past elections, the INC is endorsing senatorial candidates who have a statistical chance of making it to the Magic 12, or those within striking distance.
The same sources said the INC had made known its choices for the two major cities in the country. The INC picked former President Joseph Estrada over Mayor Alfredo Lim in the mayoralty race in Manila while it chose to support the six congressional candidates of the ruling Liberal Party in Quezon City.
The INC consulted its local leaders last week about the lineup and is expected to make a formal announcement of the senatorial candidates it is endorsing to members on Wednesday, according to the sources in Congress.
A senator, who requested anonymity, said the INC had historically delivered a minimum of 3 million votes for the candidates that it supported. (Census data show that INC has less than 2 million voting-age members.)
“The INC vote is crucial not only because it is a plus for those who were picked. It is also a big minus for those who were snubbed,” said the senator.
He said a candidate needed at least 16 million or roughly a third of all voters to win one of 12 Senate seats being contested in the elections.
Vying for command votes
In the last week of the campaign, senatorial candidates are scrambling to get “command votes” from religious groups and influential local politicians to gain the support of a still significant number of voters who have yet to decide on whom to vote.
Those with a statistical chance of winning a seat are separated from their nearest rivals by less than a percentage point to up to three percentage points—well within the margins of error of the surveys by Social Weather Station and Pulse Asia.
Pulse Asia found in its nationwide survey from April 20 to 22 that 6 percent of voters were still undecided.
The senator said that contrary to pundits’ expectations, the senators’ vote on the impeachment trial of former Supreme Court Chief Justice Renato Corona did not figure significantly in the INC’s selection process.
The INC leaders were widely seen as having stood by Corona during the Senate trial as his lead counsel, former Associate Justice Serafin Cuevas, is a high-ranking member of the INC.
The INC chose Grace Poe and Nancy Binay although it picked former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo over the late Fernando Poe Jr. in the 2004 presidential election and Mar Roxas over Jejomar Binay in the 2010 vice presidential race.
Jun Magsaysay, Escudero
A leading House official said he was surprised by the noninclusion of former Sen. Ramon Magsaysay Jr. as he was advised last week that the Team Pnoy candidate was a shoo-in.
The biggest snub was that of reelectionist Sen. Francis Escudero whom the INC consistently supported in his political career.
Malolos Diocese’s slate
The INC list came after the Malolos Diocese released its own roster of preferred candidates that did not include senatorial candidate Bro. Eddie Villanueva, an evangelist.
Villanueva said he was not offended by the apparent snub, although Bulacan is an important voting area. Bulacan has the third-largest voting population among provinces, with more than 1.5 million registered voters, according to his spokesman, Joey Munsayac.
At a news conference on Friday, the diocese released the pastoral letter of Bishop Jose Oliveros who endorsed UNA candidates Binay, Zambales Rep. Milagros Magsaysay, Juan Miguel Zubiri, Margarita Cojuangco and Honasan.
Oliveros also endorsed Team PNoy candidates Villar and Trillanes, and Ang Kapatiran Party candidates Rizalino David, John Carlos and Marwil Llasos.
“I still believe that Filipinos, particularly Bulacan residents, would not allow religious influences to obstruct the country’s progress because this is a manifestation of their love for their country,” said Villanueva, a preacher, who founded the Jesus is Lord Movement.
Villanueva said he respected the diocese’s decision.
Religious groups like the National Council of Churches of the Philippines have expressed support for Villanueva’s senatorial candidacy, according to Munsayac.
Priests for Panlilio
In the City of San Fernando, Catholic priests announced they were backing Ed Panlilio, who is running against reelectionist Pampanga Gov. Lilia Pineda.
There are 120 active priests in the Archdiocese of San Fernando. Archbishop Paciano Aniceto and Bishop Pablo Virgilio David have not endorsed national or local candidates but asked the laity to select leaders according to the teaching of the Catholic faith.
But Fr. Raul de los Santos said “many [priests] are quietly supporting Among Ed [Panlilio].” He did not cite figures, explaining that they preferred to remain anonymous as “many of us do not intend to divide our ranks.”
He said the support for Panlilio was fueled by his fight for freedom. “Freedom is God’s gift. There shall be no more freedom in our beloved province if we are going to be controlled by just one family,” De los Santos said before blessing some 1,000 civilians and candidates who joined the LP provincial motorcade on Saturday.
He admitted he had campaigned for Panlilio since 2007. “I think as priests we have to make a stand and teach people to make an intelligent stand, even if that stand divides,” he said.—Reports from Carmela Reyes-Estrope and Tonette Orejas, Inquirer Central Luzon
Originally posted: 8:12 pm | Monday, May 6th, 2013