LIBERAL Party (LP) standard-bearer Manuel “Mar” Roxas II is still likely to court the endorsement of Iglesia ni Cristo (INC) despite the apparent fallout between the two parties last year, his allies said Saturday.
This according to Dasmariñas Rep. Elpidio Barzaga, of the National Union Party, and Speaker Feliciano Belmonte, Jr., of LP, in light of pre-election survey frontrunner Sen. Grace Poe meeting top INC Minister Eraño Cordera this week.
“I would think Mar would also seek the INC’s support, just not out in the open,” Barzaga told The Manila Times in a phone interview. “All candidates would court the support of all sectors of society, especially the INC.”
Roxas spoke against the INC, a known influential religious group, last year after its members clogged Metro Manila’s major thoroughfare of Edsa as they staged a rally in support of their leaders against a complaint filed by a former INC minister.
INC is known to practice bloc voting – a scheme wherein the INC leaders dictate their followers on who to vote for in both local and national posts during elections. It is estimated to guarantee at least 2 million votes for a national candidate.
In return, INC lobbies for the appointment of its members in juicy posts in the government.
“Seeking INC’s support is a matter of tradition and necessity, whether you are trailing [in surveys]or in a close race,” Barzaga said. “And, right now, the race is too close to call.”
In the Pulse Asia survey commissioned by ABS-CBN and released Friday, Poe topped the presidential race with 28 percent, a four percentage-point ahead of Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte, who got 24 percent. Vice President Jejomar Binay is a close third with 23 percent, while Roxas settled for fourth place with 19 percent.
“All the candidates would do that [seeking of INC’s bloc vote],” Belmonte, Roxas’s campaign manager, said in a text message. “It’s a close fight, so every vote counts.”
Given INC’s influence, its members mounted a human blockade in the busy EDSA corner Shaw Blvd. for four days in Aug. 2015 in an aim to stop the Justice Department, then headed by Leila de Lima, from probing the INC leaders over an illegal-detention complaint filed by Isaias Samson Jr., a former INC minister.
The INC’s mass action choked off the metropolis’ major thoroughfare, leaving stranded passengers and exhausted commuters stuck on the road way past midnight for days.
Roxas was the lone presidential candidate who spoke against such INC’s action.
“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, especially our fellowmen who are going home to rest and spend time with their families,” Roxas said in a statement then.
Roxas got INC’s endorsement in the 2010 polls when he ran for Vice President and as a running mate of then fellow senator Benigno Aquino III.
But Roxas lost to then Makati Mayor Binay by 700,000 votes, despite him leading in all pre-election surveys. LLANESCA PANTI