INC ‘thinking’ members to defy group’s practice of bloc voting
SAYING they are “willing to break from tradition,” members of Iglesia ni Cristo (INC) who call themselves the INC Thinking Voters have decided to defy the long-held bloc voting practice inside their church and vote in the 2016 national elections for the candidate who they feel “will stand for what is right.”
No longer observing “blind obedience to corrupt INC officials,” the INC Thinking Voters vowed to “speak loudly and clearly” during the elections.
They also exposed the INC’s hand in the government bureaucracy while accusing previous presidents and administrations of “creating a monster.”
In a strongly worded letter to all presidential candidates dated Dec. 11, the INC Thinking Voters said it represented the majority of INC members “who are rebelling inside because we could no longer close our eyes to what is happening in our church.”
INC is known for voting as a bloc that politicians eagerly woo during elections. But the INC Thinking Voters will no longer be silent and passive, the letter said. In other countries, such as the United States, INC members are not compelled to vote as a bloc, according to the group.
The group said it was looking for “a strong-willed President” whose platform would prioritize the eradication, among others, of three evils: bribery and corruption in government, endorsements by special interest groups of political appointees and the “padrino” culture.
‘Root of all evil’
Over the years, the INC Thinking Voters said, its church “has been allowed to grow in size and influence, but as proven by recent events, it now wields more power than the State. At the root of all EVIL is the precious BLOC VOTES (emphasis supplied). The monster is not INC per se but the people who now run our church. The INC doctrines remain pure; it is how they are used and abused by the current INC leadership that has destroyed what was once pristine.”
INC was founded in Manila in 1914, or 101 years ago by Felix Manalo. It is said to have 2 million members worldwide. The present executive minister, Eduardo Manalo, is Felix’s grandson.
Recently, INC was mired in controversy when Eduardo’s mother (wife of the late Eraño Manalo, who had served as INC’s second executive minister after Felix), brother and sister, along with several ministers, were expelled from INC for allegedly airing grievances and issuing pleas for help because of alleged danger to their lives.
Several ministers have filed cases for abduction, illegal detention and harassment. Members of the INC Sanggunian or executive council, headed by Eduardo Manalo, have also been accused of corruption and extravagant lifestyle.
Some INC ministers in the United States have resigned to protest the arbitrary expulsions and alleged wrongdoing in the INC.
An INC blogger using the name Antonio Ebangelista is said to have begun the exposé on the alleged irregularities in the INC but his true identity has not been discovered.
The INC Thinking Voters stressed that the presidential candidate it would support was “one who will not kowtow to any religious organization by strictly enforcing the true separation of Church and State.” It criticized the wrong interpretation of this separation when INC members demanded that the State bend the law in favor of the church.
Criticizing INC for becoming a “powerful and shameless bully,” the group cited recent events to prove that INC has “no respect for the law, or the government whose arm it knows it can twist to get what it wants.”
It recalled the Aug. 28 to 31 rallies that paralyzed traffic, initially on several streets surrounding the Department of Justice (DOJ) in Manila, and later, along Edsa and Ortigas/Shaw. INC members, many of them bused from the provinces, protested the DOJ investigation of the alleged abduction and harassment of one of its expelled members, Bro. Isaias Samson Jr.
Instead of charging INC with public disturbance or sedition for inciting members to rebel, Malacañang “initiat(ed) a secret meeting with the INC leadership, while intentionally leaving out Bro. Samson’s lawyers,” the INC Thinking Voters said. “Speculations abounded as to nature of the agreement.”
It cited an Inquirer report saying said that to save face, both sides reached a compromise—for the DOJ to investigate Samson’s complaint then drop it for lack of probable cause. Two months later, that was exactly what happened, it said.
‘For the right price’
The INC Thinking Voters lamented that corruption had remained unchecked at every level and branch of government.
“For the right price, or the right amount of pressure from special interest groups, especially those of the bloc-voting kind, people in government are more than willing to prostitute themselves and betray public trust by furthering the interests of the few instead of protecting the interest of the majority,” it said.
In an accusing tone but without naming names, the group pointed at politicians. “Some of you have openly sided with INC to ingratiate yourselves with the influential organization. While we think that closing one’s eyes to truth and justice in exchange for the priced bloc vote shows a major defect in character … especially in one running for the highest office in the land, we are willing to overlook that and start from ground zero right here and now.”
Though admitting not having direct evidence of collusion between INC and persons in Malacañang regarding the church’s arm-twisting in the Samson case, the INC Thinking Voters expressed fears “that maneuvers like this are a harbinger of things to come.”
It challenged the government: “Convince us otherwise. Sitting in our midst is a powerful organization, which unabashedly demands from those who owe them favors, appointment of INC loyalists, [lack of] qualifications notwithstanding.”
“Over time, INC has successfully seeded its own people in key positions, notably in various law enforcement agencies, judiciary, customs, immigration, labor… These are civil servants who are either indebted to INC, friends of INC or INC members whose loyalty to the INC executive ministers overrides everything else,” it said.
Scandal in BOC
In April 2015, the INC Thinking Voters said, a scandal rocked the Bureau of Customs (BOC) that resulted in “the resignation of a man with more integrity than most,” Commissioner John Sevilla. Quoting a news report, the group said, it was because of “certain appointments reportedly backed by powerful forces, including Iglesia Ni Cristo, ahead of the 2016 polls.”
“Sure enough, soon after Mr. Sevilla’s resignation, Teddy Sandy Raval was appointed head of BOC’s Enforcement and Security Services, an appointment INC put its mighty weight behind. Three months later, another controversial appointment in the person of Ricardo Marquez as Philippine National Police chief hit the news. INC lobbied very hard for his appointment. The day after Marquez’s appointment became official, coordinated kidnappings and illegal detention of INC ministers and workers took place, a day that will be forever etched in our minds—July 16, 2015.”
The INC Thinking Voters posed questions to the presidential aspirants, among them:
“If push comes to shove, will you actually have the courage to slay the monster and cut off the Gorgon’s head? Let us be clear about this. We are not asking you to interfere with the INC’s bloc voting practice. We are asking you to stop its evil effects.
“Will you uphold the Constitution by strictly enforcing the true separation of Church and State?
“Will you stand firm against special interest groups who push for slotting certain people in key government positions?”
The group’s members said they “are prepared to vote contrary to the dictates of our church and are also prepared to abstain if, in our judgment, no candidate is worthy of our vote.”
They wanted it known that while they continued to believe in INC’s doctrine on unity, “we intend to vote with our conscience this coming election regardless of whom the INC leadership favors.”
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.