Duterte welcomes Iglesia support
DAVAO CITY—The camp of presidential candidate Rodrigo Duterte yesterday welcomed the endorsement of the Iglesia ni Cristo (INC) sect, while warning the public to be vigilant against electoral fraud.
“We welcome the endorsement of the Iglesia ni Cristo. This is a big boost to our campaign particularly to thwart attempts by the administration to cheat [in] the elections,” Peter Laviña, spokesperson for the Davao mayor, said in a statement.
“This endorsement shows that Duterte’s advocacy for ‘Tunay na Pagbabago’ has resonated [with] almost all our people and all our church formations affected by rising crimes and drugs, continuing corruption and government neglect, poverty and sufferings of our people,” he added.
While their camp has received various expressions of support from other religious groups and leaders, Laviña said the INC endorsement was “truly significant” because of “its church discipline in voting.”
The INC leadership on Thursday confirmed the veracity of an Inquirer report about its endorsement of Duterte and Sen. Ferdinand Marcos Jr. for vice president, through a news article posted on the web site of its television and radio network, Eagle Broadcasting Corp.
The spokesperson of the bloc-voting sect, Edwil Zabala, however, denied that the INC had already announced the names of the candidates it was supporting during a worship service. Instead, Zabala asked the media to wait for the INC’s official announcement.
“Once we’ve told our brothers and sisters in the church whom we have agreed to vote for, you’d know,” he said in a text message.
In its statement, Duterte’s camp also hit the Liberal Party for claiming to be in a momentum, “an empty boast,” Laviña said, that “was clearly laying the premises and conditioning the minds of our people on the grand fraud they plan to unleash with unbelievable results on election day.”
In General Santos City, boxing icon and senatorial candidate Manny Pacquiao on Thursday said he, too, was grateful for the INC endorsement.
“I am extending my heartfelt and never-ending gratitude to the Iglesia ni Cristo led by (INC Executive Minister) Ka Eduardo Manalo for rallying behind my senatorial bid,” Pacquiao said in a statement e-mailed to the Inquirer.
“Your continued support will serve not just as inspiration but, above all, as impetus for me to advocate transparency, honesty and excellence in public service,” the Sarangani representative said.
“Once again, thank you so much, and may God continue to guide us in all our endeavors,” Pacquiao, a born-again Christian pastor, said.
In Kidapawan City, local candidates from North Cotabato trooped to the INC compound to court the support of sect members for the May 9 elections. There are at least 5,000 INC members in this city alone.
The front lawn of the INC House of Worship became a virtual parking lot as vehicles carrying local politicians started arriving as early as 6 a.m. Thursday, and snarled traffic along the Cotabato-Kidapawan-Davao highway.
The candidates came from Kidapawan City and the North Cotabato towns of Matalam, Makilala, Mlang, Tulunan, Magpet, Antipas, Arakan and President Roxas. Among the throng of politicians were Kidapawan Mayor Joseph Evangelista, Matalam Vice Mayor Ginalyn Valdivieso-Catamco, Magpet Mayor Florenito Gonzaga, as well as candidates for municipal councilors.
Reelectionist Davao councilor Ruby Padilla-Sison said in an interview that the sect’s “solid vote” would be a big boost to any candidate’s chances of winning. With a report from Niña Calleja
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