INC backs Duterte, Marcos
The bloc-voting, homegrown Christian sect Iglesia ni Cristo (INC) on Wednesday night endorsed Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte for President and Sen. Ferdinand Marcos Jr. for Vice President in Monday’s national elections.
INC announced its endorsement through a circular read during worship service by executive minister Eduardo Manalo, who called on the sect’s members to vote as one on Monday.
“This is based on the teachings in the Bible that were taught to us even before we were accepted as members of the Church of Christ. We have faith that it is God’s teaching that there shouldn’t be division among us, but that we should be one in thinking and one in judgment,” Manalo said in Filipino.
The INC head cited I Corinthians 1:10 and Romans 15:6 in claiming that the sect’s unity came “in the name of Jesus Christ, for the glory of God and for the sake of the church.”
He said a sample ballot containing the names of national and local candidates the INC followers would vote for would be sent to them before the vote.
INC also endorsed the senatorial candidacies of the Liberal Party’s Joel Villanueva, Franklin Drilon and Ralph Recto, the Nationalist People’s Coalition’s Vicente Sotto III, United Nationalist Alliance’s Manny Pacquiao, independent former Sen. Richard Gordon, former Akbayan Rep. Risa Hontiveros, the NPC’s Sherwin Gatchalian, independent Francis Tolentino, former Bukidnon Rep. Miguel Zubiri, former Sen. Panfilo Lacson and Lakas Rep. Martin Romualdez.
There was no immediate comment last night from Duterte’s rivals Grace Poe, Mar Roxas, Jejomar Binay and Miriam Defensor Santiago, and Marcos’ opponent Leni Robredo, who is leading the race for the country’s second highest office in the latest voter preference polls.
All five presidential candidates have sought the endorsement of the influential INC, which does not officially state how many members it has. Unofficial estimates put the sect’s following at 2.25 million.
There were no immediate comments from Duterte and Marcos, although Marcos, whose father, the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos, had also been backed by the sect, appeared to have known about his selection as early as last week.
Marcos was reported on Friday as saying he learned last Tuesday that INC would endorse him. But the sect did not confirm Marcos’ statement and the next day his camp said the senator had been misquoted.
Last night’s INC announcement showed Marcos’ advance information had been right after all.
President Aquino met with INC executive minister Eduardo Manalo on Monday in an apparent last-minute plea for support for his chosen candidate, Roxas, although the LP standard-bearer, who is trailing Duterte in the latest Pulse Asia poll, said he could win the presidential election without the sect’s support.
Mr. Aquino had also warned of an impending return of dictatorship as the trash-talking Duterte, who promises to kill tens of thousands of criminals outside the justice system, and Marcos, who has been trying to pull the ultimate political comeback for his family, captured the lead in the polls in recent weeks.
The sect has gotten into a legal brawl with the Aquino administration, with the Department of Justice (DOJ) investigating allegations of kidnappings of dissenting ministers who had exposed corruption involving the group’s leaders in October 2015.
Rejecting state intervention in its affairs, the sect picketed the DOJ building in Manila and blockaded a narrow intersection of the belt highway Edsa for four days before quietly giving way to the probe that eventually ended in the dismissal of the charges against the group’s leaders.
Whether the incident affected the INC choices was unclear, and Malacañang had no immediate comment after the sect announced its endorsement of Duterte and Marcos.
Not always successful
INC endorsement, however, does not always translate into electoral victory.
In 1992, INC endorsed the presidential candidacy of Eduardo Cojuangco Jr., but the businessman lost to then President Corazon Aquino’s defense secretary, Fidel V. Ramos.
In 2010, the sect endorsed the presidential candidacy of Sen. Benigno Aquino III and the vice presidential candidacy of Roxas. Mr. Aquino won, but Roxas lost to Binay.
On Wednesday, Gordon told Inquirer reporters and editors in an interview that INC endorsed his run for the Senate in 2013 “but I lost.”
But Gordon, chair of the Philippine Red Cross, said he was “elated” by the reports that the sect had endorsed him again, even though he was unsure whether the reports were true.
Reports of the sect’s decision began to spread on social media in the morning, with INC Facebook users in the Visayas posting on their accounts that Duterte was the sect’s choice for President and Marcos for Vice President.
Sample ballots reportedly distributed to INC members also appeared online, three of them posted on Facebook. With reports from Maricar B. Brizuela; John Cyril Yee and Angelica Cruz, trainees; Carmel Loise Matus, Inquirer Visayas; and Inquirer Research/TVJ