Ellen Tordesillas

INC’s overrated election clout

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The Iglesia ni Cristo is making a mockery of Philippine laws and personalities who are aspiring for the presidency are either kowtowing to the church leadership or treading lightly on the controversy.

 

Vice President Jejomar Binay has become the INC’s prime protector accusing Justice Secretary Leila de Lima’s investigation of reported kidnapping and detention of INC members as ”a clear act of harassment and interference from the administration.”

Sen. Ferdinand Marcos, Jr., whose father ‘s two decade rule enjoyed the support of the INC , accused De Lima of “mishandling” the INC issue which he said led to the rally that worsened the already bad traffic situation in Metro Manila.

Sen. Grace Poe is a disappointment. Asked in a forum in Nueva Ecija on the INC issue, she kept on inserting the Mamasapano massacre. Was she saying that De Lima should not touch the INC kidnapping issue until after the Mamasapano case is resolved which could be forever?

She justified the mob in front of the DOJ office in Padre Faura saying,”.. huwag rin nating mamaliitin ang importansiya ng relihiyon. Para sa akin ang mga tao na yan ang dinidepensahan nila ay ang kanilang paniniwala. Nirerespeto natin yan at kailangan pangalagaan din ang kanilang mga karapatan.”

Interior Secretary Mar Roxas tiptoed recognizing the rights of the INC members to stage a street protest but expressed concern about the public inconvenience that is is causing.”While all citizens have the right to be heard and to peaceful assembly, the exercise of these rights cannot impinge on the rights of others or cause inconvenience to anyone,” he said.

President Aquino has not said anything but the fact that he is not reining in De Lima in her investigation of the conflicts in the INC, even putting the expelled INC minister Isaias Samson under the Witness Protection, is a plus for him.

But neither is he being strict on INC ‘s flouting the law and causing so much difficulty to the public.

The reason for the “presidentiables“ cautious (except for Binay) reaction to the problem which the INC has become is the supposed bloc votes that the religious sect can deliver.

It is well known that every election, the INC gives out a sample ballot with names of the candidates to their members. Many candidates plead to the INC leadership to be included in that list.

There’s no official number of INC voting members but a 2001 elections exit poll survey by Social Weather Station for ABS-CBN “found that the Iglesia Ni Cristo (INC) were solid in voting 8-5 (8 candidates from the administration’s People Power Coalition) and 5 from the opposition’s Pwersa ng Masa) according to their hierarchy’s advisory..”

According to pollster Junie Laylo, then with SWS and now has his Laylo Report, said in 2001:”
The INC’s vote strength is only about 1.2 million or 3% of the total electorate, but with a conversion rate of 68-84% that translates to about 800 thousand to 1 million votes for Senatorial candidates endorsed by its leadership. As a solid voting bloc, INC votes can be very influential in helping borderline candidates for the Senate.”

That’s true. INC votes are helpful for those who are in the number 11, 12, and 13 in the senatorial race. But if you are in the top five, INC’s non- support would not push you out of the Magic 12.

In the presidential and vice presidential race, if the contest is very tight, every vote is important. Thus, the pilgrimage of the candidates to the INC headquarters every elections.

But the INC vote cannot propel a candidate lagging behind to number one. In 1992, INC supported Eduardo”Danding” Cojuangco , who was only number three after Fidel V. Ramos and Miriam D. Santiago.

Roxas in 2010 is another good example of the non-potency of an INC endorsement. He was supported by INC but Binay won over him by 727,084 votes.

INC actually rides with the trend in making their list. Winnability, not integrity or competence, is the primary basis for inclusion in the sample ballot.

One good example is Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV in 2007.

Trillanes, who was in detention then and with not much money for his campaign, was not given a chance to win. Thus, he was not included in the INC list. But he won.

In the 2013 elections, the INC included Trillanes in its list.

De Lima, if she runs for senator, will surely not be in the INC list.

De Lima might find comforting the paper delivered by SWS’ Mahar Mangahas in Egypt in 2009 on “The Challenge of Election Surveys: SWS experience in the Philippines.

Mangahas said some of SWS’ findings in the 2007 elections was “Command voting” is limited.

“Of every five voters, four say - most people here decide by themselves who to vote for and only one says that - most people here are just told by the leaders whom to vote for,” the pollster said.

 

The current crisis in the INC all the more undermines the myth of its “solid vote.”

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Cynthia V. Reyes DMD