Wednesday, May 5, 2010

INC anoints Noynoy

May 5, 2010, 5:46pm

Original Story:

The Iglesia Ni Cristo (INC), the biggest religious sect in the country that observes bloc voting, has chosen Senators Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino and Manuel “Mar” Roxas III of the Liberal Party (LP) as presidential and vice presidential candidates, respectively, of its more than two million voting members.

Included in the INC-backed senatorial line-up is a mix of candidates from five contending political parties – the LP, Lakas-Kampi-CMD, Nacionalista Party (NP); Nationalist People’s Coalition (NPC), and the Pwersa ng Masang Pilipino (PMP).

They are re-electionists Senators Ramon “Bong” Revilla Jr., Lito Lapid, Miriam Defensor-Santiago, Juan Ponce Enrile, Jinggoy Estrada, and Pia Cayetano; former senators Vicente “Tito” Sotto III, Franklin Drilon, and Ralph Recto; and Reps. Rozzano Biazon, Teofisto Guingona III, and Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr.

Selected during a long deliberation that ended Friday, the list of INC-backed candidates, from the president down to councilor, was announced to members during the first religious service scheduled in several chapels throughout the country.

The broadcast will continue in services Thursday while the list of candidates will be distributed to the residences of followers to guarantee their compliance.

The announcement came five days after the Kingdom of Jesus Christ headed by Pastor Apollo Quiboloy enjoined the more than two million believers of his church to vote for Lakas-Kampi-CMD presidential bet Gilbert Teodoro Jr. and Roxas for vice president.

“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,’ the statement released by Bro. Bienvenido C. Santiago, INC spokesman, said.

The statement added: “This does not mean to say that the other candidates are not worth of the said positions. We know they have the capability, the experience and the welfare of our nation at heart.”

Now headed by Executive Minister Bro. Eduardo Manalo, the religious sect said it joins the nation “in aspiring for clean, honest and peaceful” elections.

Stressing the importance of Holy Bible readings enjoining the faithful to unite under the leadership of the church, a circular distributed by Bro. Manalo and read in all worship scheduled worship services starting Wednesday, enjoined all followers to vote for the candidates included in the list, vote early and leave the polling center as soon as their votes have been cast.

At the worship service held at the Luzon Avenue chapel in Quezon City, the ministers cited various passages in the Bible warning of severe punishment for acts considered to be inimical to the unity of the INC.

Non-compliance to the voting preference of the leadership is considered a sin that is punishable by expulsion.

The Luzon Avenue minister said INC members are enjoined to “momentarily forget” friends and relatives who are running for elective positions but are not included in the list.

“Most of them are our friends who have been with us in times of celebration and sorrowand they have respected our right and freedom to exercise our religion,” the INC statement said, referring to candidates who failed to make it on the list.

One good example is the preference of the INC for QC Vice Mayor Herbert Bautista who is running against former Arroyo adviser, Michael Defensor.

Defensor has been known to be a close friend of the late Executive Minister Bro. Eraño Manalo, the current head’s father. Nevertheless, Defensor’s father, incumbent Rep. Matias Defensor won the support of the INC as its congressional candidate in QC’s third district.

Vice mayoral endorsement went to Joy Belmonte, daughter of incumbent Mayor Feliciano Belmonte Jr.

The councilors for QC’s third district are Don De Leon, barangay captain Beda Torrecampo, Councilor Jaime Borres, Albert Dichaves, barangay captain Mar de Guzman, and Allan Reyes. Alagad partylist, represented by INC member Rep. Rodante Marcoleta, also won the INC backing.

In Manila, former Mayor Lito Atienza and Vice Mayor Isko Moreno have been included in the INC list as its mayoralty and vice mayoralty choices. Incumbent Rep. Bienvenido Abante was also endorsed.

Parañaque Mayor Florencio Bernabe Jr. was included anew in the Iglesia list for his third term as the city’s chief executive. His LKC runningmate, Gus Tambunting, was preferred as vice mayor over his rival, actor Anjo Yllana.

Veteran lawmaker Rep. Roilo Golez also won another INC backing for his second re-election bid. In Marikina City, Rep. Del de Guzman, another Liberal Party stalwart, will be the INC mayoral bet, with Councilor Bolok Santos as the choice vice mayor. Re-electionist Rep. Marcelino Teodoro won another INC backing for congressman of the first district.

Incumbent Rep. Jay Lacson Noel was anointed by the INC for a second term against closest rival, former Rep. Federico Sandoval in Malabon. Incumbent Mayor Canuto Oreta and nephew, Lenlen Oreta, were the choices for mayor and vice mayor, respectively.

Facing a tough challenge from former Rep. Luis “Baby” Asistio, Caloocan City Mayor Enrico Echiverri campaign for re-election took a much-needed shot in the arm from the INC. His runningmate, former Rep. Edgar Erice, was likewise selected for vice mayor.

The religious group also endorsed third-termer Rep.Oscar Malapitan for first district congressman. Neophyte Nani Almeda, a member of the Nacionalista Party, snatched the congressional endorsement from incumbent Rep. Mitch Cajayon in the second district race.

NP respects INC decision With this development, the camp of NP standard-bearer Sen. Manuel Villar Jr. said it sees no problem over the formal endorsement of the influential INC on the candidacies of Aquino and Roxas.

“Nothing has changed. Neither has our relationship with the INC, cultivated over years of trust, friendship, and cooperation, nor our party's commitment to the nation, diminished or wavered with the INC's endorsement of other candidates,” the NP said.

NP senatorial bet and spokesperson Adel Tamano said regardless of religious affiliations, all entities should pray for a peaceful and orderly election on Monday.

“As a member of a religious minority, as a Muslim, I respect the INC’s right to endorse candidates. It is part of both the constitutionally enshrined freedom of religion and the freedom of association,” Tamano said.

“Although the NP candidates for president and vice president were not endorsed, my respect for the INC is in no way diminished. I wish all candidates the best and whatever our religion, let’s pray for a peaceful and honest election,” Tamano said.

Earlier, Villar, and running mate Sen. Loren Legarda, got the informal endorsement of El Shaddai leader Bro. Mike Velarde during the latter’s anniversary celebration in Hong Kong.

Despite the endorsement, the NP said it is unfazed in its mission to rally for a more competent leader and one who has more ability to help the poor. “We are undaunted in our mission to provide our countrymen with leadership that is competent and pro-poor,” the NP said.

“We continue to lead the ground battle at the grassroots level. We are confident of the days that lie ahead,” they added.

Endorsement saddens Erap However, former President Joseph “Erap” Estrada expressed deep sadness over the INC endorsement Aquino but hopes that despite the development he would still win the presidency in the May 10, 2010 polls.

“Naku, nakakalungkot. Lungkot na lungkot ako pero ginagalang ko ang kanilang desisyon. Wala akong sama ng loob sa kanila,” Estrada said in an interview. (“I’m really saddened but I respect their decision.”)

Estrada said he is saddened because the development means that “he would have to work doubly hard to win the elections” without the support of the politically influential religious organization which is known for "bloc voting" during elections.

“It’s a big loss,” Estrada said of the support of the INC noting that when he handily won the 1998 presidential race, INC was on his side. (With reports from Hannah L. Torregoza, Rio Rose Ribaya, and Leonard D. Postrado)

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