No politics, just bloc vote, says INC member
Iglesia ni Cristo (INC) votes as a herd in elections, but it never dips its fingers in politics, a member of the religious sect said Sunday.
Lawyer Ferdinand Topacio, an INC follower, said he was “offended” and “outraged” by the Inquirer’s report on Saturday that INC officials had been seeing senators to lobby for the acquittal of impeached Chief Justice Renato Corona.
“Except to vote as one during elections in accordance with our fundamental beliefs, we do not intervene in politics, and it is offensive to say otherwise,” said Topacio, a lawyer for Jose Miguel Arroyo, husband of former President and now Pampanga Rep. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.
Topacio said that while he was not authorized to speak for INC, “I believe I speak for most of the brethren who are outraged that the church was placed in a bad light on the basis of unsubstantiated rumors. We wished that the Inquirer would have left the church out of the disinformation and psychological warfare campaigns being waged in connection with the Corona impeachment trial.”
The Inquirer reported that INC officials Dan Orosa and Resty Lazaro had met discreetly with Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile and Senate President Pro Tempore Jinggoy Estrada during the monthlong Lenten break of Congress to plead the case of Corona, whom INC followers supported.
A legislative source told the Inquirer that two other associates—Manny Cuevas and Victor Cheng—had been requesting to meet with other senators in recent days to lobby them for Corona’s acquittal.
The source said the INC emissaries were going for members of the United Nationalist Alliance (UNA), a coalition between the PDP-Laban party of Vice President Jejomar Binay and Puwersa ng Masang Pilipino (PMP) of former President Joseph Estrada.
Enrile, president of UNA, declined to be interviewed on the report, his staff said. His deputy in the Senate, Estrada, said he had not been approached.
Navotas City Rep. Tobias Tiangco, UNA secretary general, issued a statement Sunday saying no emissary from INC had contacted senators belonging to the coalition to plead for Corona’s acquittal.
Tiangco decried the legislative source’s hiding behind anonymity while trying to “besmirch the reputation of both INC and UNA.”
“Could this be a relative of Congressman [Reynaldo] Umali’s small lady or Congressman [Jorge] Banal’s gate-to-gate courier service?” Tiangco asked.
He urged the source to come out in the open.
“Aren’t we honorable men?” Tiangco said. “Come into the light Mr. Congressional Source and prove that you’re an honorable man.”
Senators reached for comment said no INC emissaries had contacted them.
Senate Majority Leader Vicente Sotto III doubted that INC had sent people out to lobby the senators to vote for Corona’s acquittal. “For all you know, their (INC’s) name is only being used,” Sotto said.
Budget Secretary Florencio Abad Jr., a political adviser to President Aquino, also doubted that INC was lobbying for Corona’s acquittal.
He said on Saturday that while Corona would use “all available political levers, even calling upon political debts” to tilt the balance in his favor, he doubted whether the emissaries were deployed by the INC leaders.
On Sunday, a party-list lawmaker said INC had always been known to be intervening in the country’s political affairs that reports of its meddling in the Corona impeachment came as no surprise.
“Religious leaders can preach, they can give spiritual guidance, they can comment on moral matters, they should convert sinner politicians and lead them to the path of goodness. But it’s unholy behavior if they use the sacred power of their church or sect to impose their dogmas on how leaders draft, debate, and vote on public policies,” said Kabataan Rep. Raymond Palatino.
“This is one divine intervention which we can live without, it’s anathema in a true and vibrant democratic, secular society,” Palatino said.
“Politicians must listen to the demands of the religious constituency, but there are other voices, views which they must consider too. They should ignore threats of election backlash,” he said. “The religious vote is overrated, anyway.”
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