INC endorses Aquino, Roxas based on its members’ survey
By Nancy C. Carvajal, Arlyn dela Cruz
Philippine Daily Inquirer
MANILA, Philippines—It was based on a “survey” that came with a mandate from heaven.
The Iglesia Ni Cristo (INC) endorsed Liberal Party presidential candidate Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III and his running mate Manuel “Mar” Roxas II after determining the sentiments of its members, a member of the religious sect said Wednesday.
“Noynoy is the popular choice of the members through the surveys conducted on its members,” said Senior Supt. Franklin Mabanag, a long-time member of the Philippine Christian sect.
Aquino was ecstatic about the INC support for him and Roxas. “I felt like my feet were on cloud nine when I heard the news,” he said.
Aquino said he did not offer something to the INC in exchange for its endorsement. Neither did the sect make any demands, he said.
The INC also announced Wednesday the 12 senatorial candidates it was supporting. They are Rozzano Biazon, Bong Revilla Jr., Pilar Juliana Cayetano, Miriam Defensor-Santiago, Franklin Drilon, Juan Ponce Enrile, Jinggoy Estrada, Teofisto Guingona III, Manuel Lapid, Ferdinand Marcos Jr., Ralph Recto and Vicente Sotto III.
Mabanag said the endorsement was usually followed by members worldwide. “Such endorsement is followed not only because the members believe in the wisdom of its leaders, but also because it shows the unity of the church,” the police officer said.
The INC claims to have five million to six million voters. In the 2000 census, the National Statistics Office put the INC membership in the country at 1.8 million or 2.3 percent of the total population.
Meeting with Manalo
Another source said that after the consultation with INC members a committee was formed to finalize the process.
The source said INC Executive Minister Eduardo Manalo personally talked to Aquino last week about the church endorsement of his candidacy at the INC Central Temple on Commonwealth Avenue in Quezon City.
“The only request was for the INC to make the announcement,” the source added.
The source added that starting on Thursday, sample ballots containing the INC choices for the presidential, vice presidential and senatorial candidates printed by the church would be distributed to members.
In the past two presidential elections, the candidates endorsed by the INC won—Joseph Estrada in 1998 and Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo in 2004.
The INC announced the names of candidates it was endorsing during the morning worship service on Wednesday in various locales nationwide.
Ministers who led the congregation read the official endorsement of Aquino and Roxas. The same announcement will be read to members attending the service Thursday.
“Many important factors were taken into consideration in making our decision. After careful and prayerful deliberation, the Church believes that this is the best for our country,” Manalo said in a statement released by the INC Central Office.
Others also capable
The INC decision to vote for Aquino and Roxas did not imply that “the other candidates are not worthy of the same positions,” Manalo said.
Other presidential and vice presidential candidates have the capability and the experience and carry the welfare of the nation in their hearts, he said.
“We have worked together with many of them in support of socio-civic programs and projects for the benefit of our fellow countrymen. Most of them are our friends who have been with us in times of celebration and sorrow, and they have respected our right and freedom to exercise our religion,” Manalo said.
He enjoined “the rest of the nation in aspiring for clean, honest and peaceful elections, and, for the sake of the country, pray that the nation’s decision will be respected by everyone.”
Kris and siblings
Aquino went to the INC central office three times since the start of the campaign.
Last week, he was accompanied by his siblings, including TV personality Kris Aquino. He was introduced to ministers of the church assigned to different regions but there was no talk about any support or assurance of support.
A member of the Aquino campaign team said the Liberal Party standard-bearer was humbled by the endorsement.
“This is a big boost to Noy and he is also happy that the support is not just for him but for the tandem of Noy and Mar,” said Maria Montelibano, head of the communications and media group of the Noy Aquino Campaign Team.
Roxas said the INC endorsement was a “sacred obligation” for him and Aquino to provide “untarnished” governance if they win in the elections.
“I’m very thankful to the Iglesia ni Cristo, particularly Executive Minister Eduardo Manalo, for the trust that he gave to Team Noynoy-Mar,” Roxas said at a press conference.
He said there was no quid pro quo in the INC endorsement.
“We gave them a very general presentation of our platform—our views on the budget deficit, international trade and hunger in our country,” Roxas said.
He said the questions from the INC were very general. “They did not suggest or approach us in any way to present their interest,” he added.
Despite failing to get the endorsement for its presidential candidate Manuel Villar and his running mate Loren Legarda, the Nacionalista Party said that “nothing has changed” between them and the INC.
Estrada to work harder
Former President Joseph Estrada said he was surprised by the INC endorsement of Aquino.
But Estrada said he respected the decision and vowed to just work “extra hard” to make up for the INC votes that Aquino was expected to get.
The administration party expressed disappointment with the INC decision, but said its candidate Gilberto Teodoro Jr. would just move on.
“We are mildly disappointed but this is par for the course. We will continue working with them under a Teodoro administration,” Lakas-Kampi-CMD president Francis Manglapus said. With reports from Gil Cabacungan, Philip V. Tubeza, Nikko Dizon, Christian V. Esguerra, TJ Burgonio and Emil Sarmiento