PRESIDENT Benigno Aquino III on Monday visited the Iglesia ni Cristo (INC) headquarters and had a closed-door meeting with Executive Minister Eduardo Manalo, apparently to seek the religious sect’s endorsement for the administration candidates Manuel Roxas II and Leni Robredo.
Aquino paid a courtesy call on Manalo at the INC Central Office in Quezon City in the morning, sources privy to the meeting said, just a week before the synchronized local and national elections on May 9.
In an interview after their meeting, Aquino said he thanked the INC for its steadfast support for his administration, hoping this will extend to his anointed political bets.
“We have truly felt the support of the INC throughout the administration and even before I had been in office,” the President told INC media in Filipino.
Both Roxas and Robredo are trailing in the surveys to Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte and Sen. Bongbong Marcos, respectively.
INC members are known to practice bloc voting during elections, meaning they all vote for candidates chosen by their church leaders. Their support, therefore, could be crucial in a close race.
Aquino, who was endorsed by the INC during the 2010 elections, said he also shared with Manalo his vision for the Philippines after he steps down from office.
The President said he also gave “usual appeals and political appeals,” but did not elaborate.
“As usual I’ve been received well by Ka Eduardo,” he stressed. “I have no complaints, but to say thanks for all the support.”
Asked for his thoughts on the elections, Aquino said he hopes voters will choose to continue with his administration’s Daang Matuwid (Straight Path) principles and programs.
“You’ve seen the proof in our performance,” he stressed. “The so-called Straight Path, it’s up to you to continue and strengthen it.”
Aquino added, “In the end, like we always say, the people is our boss. We will wait for the judgment of the people in what they want.”
Social Weather Stations (SWS) chief Mahar Mangahas had said INC voters would reach around 1.7 million by 2016. He’d also said that in the 2010 elections, INC accounted for 4.25 percent or 1.53 million of about 36 million votes cast for president and vice president.
Besides Roxas and Duterte, Sen. Grace Poe and Vice President Jejomar Binay are also seeking INC endorsement.
Binay and Roxas had met with Manalo.
Early this month, Poe revealed that she met with an INC official. She, however, stressed that she did not directly ask for support for her candidacy in the upcoming polls. CATHERINE S. VALENTE