Is Iglesia ni Cristo’s bloc voting still strong in 2016?

Reynaldo Santos Jr
Recent scandals in the INC have cast doubt on the power of the church's bloc voting

MANILA, Philippines – Leila de Lima’s 12th-place finish in this year’s senatorial race is sweet victory despite alleged efforts to block support for her candidacy.

The Iglesia ni Cristo (INC) vowed to stand in the way of the former justice secretary after she expressed interest in pursuing the illegal detention case filed by expelled minister Isaias Samson Jr against the church leaders. (READ: Why De Lima is target of Iglesia ni Cristo anger)

INC leaders had reportedly demanded that local candidates remove De Lima in their sample ballots, in exchange for the sect’s coveted endorsement.

Candidates have been seeking the endorsement of the INC every election, as the church with 1.37 million members is believed to practice bloc voting. (READ: INC: From rag-tag sect to influential wheeler dealer?)

Recent scandals in the INC have cast doubt on the power of the church to deliver bloc votes. In 2015, scandals involving alleged corruption as well as a family feud began to rock the INC.

Did this affect the church’s bloc-voting power?

We checked the results in precincts that delivered for candidates endorsed by INC in the 2013 and 2016 elections. This is to see if areas that delivered for the church-backed candidates in 2013 did the same for 2016.

First, we looked at the areas where the 12 senatorial candidates endorsed by the INC in the 2013 elections won. Candidates endorsed by INC then were: Edgardo Angara Jr, Bam Aquino, Nancy Binay, Alan Peter Cayetano, JV Ejercito, Jack Enrile, Richard Gordon, Gringo Honasan, Loren Legarda, Grace Poe, Antonio Trillanes IV, and Cynthia Villar.

Based on 2013 per-precinct election data from the National Citizens’ Movement for Free Elections (Namfrel), there are 707 precincts where these 12 candidates won. And in 32 out of the 707 precincts, the sum of the votes for these candidates correspond to more than 89% of all the votes in the senatorial race – demonstrating a pattern of bloc voting for all these 12 candidates.

These precincts are:

  • Agusan del Sur: Brgy. Tagubay, Bayugan City (1 precinct, 98.18%)
  • Agusan del Sur: Brgy. Nueva Era, Bunawan (1 precinct, 99.45%)
  • Agusan del Sur: Brgy. San Gabriel, Veruela, (1 precinct, 98.99%)
  • Batangas: Brgy. Wawa, Batangas City (1 precinct, 89.90%)
  • Cavite: Brgy. Sampaloc V, Dasmariñas City (3 precincts, between 99.76% to 99.77%)
  • Cavite: Brgy. Navarro, General Trias (2 precincts, 90.61% and 92.55%)
  • Cotabato: Brgy. Camasi, President Roxas (1 precinct, 94.68%)
  • Leyte: Brgy. Garrido, Calubian, Leyte (1 precinct, 96.12%)
  • Nueva Ecija: Brgy. Maligaya, Palayan City (2 precincts, 99.67% and 99.70%)
  • Nueva Ecija: Brgy. Bagong Buhay, Palayan City (2 precincts, 99.48% and 99.68%)
  • Oriental Mindoro: Brgy. Masaguing, Naujan (1 precinct, 95.94%))
  • Pampanga: Brgy. Eden, Mexico (1 precinct, 90.18%)
  • Quezon City: Brgy. New Era (6 precincts, between 98.27% and 99.59%)
  • Quezon City: Brgy. Ugong Norte (1 precinct, 98.80%)
  • Rizal: Brgy. San Jose, Rodriguez (7 precincts, between 90.69% and 99.73%)
  • Tarlac: Brgy. Sapang Tagalog, Tarlac City (1 precinct, 91.03%)

After this, we then checked the results of the 2016 elections in these areas.

For this year’s election, the INC endorsed the candidacies of Rodrigo Duterte for president and Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos for vice president. Gordon was still endorsed for senator, as well as fellow candidates Frank Drilon, Sherwin Gatchalian, Risa Hontiveros, Panfilo Lacson, Manny Pacquaio, Ralph Recto, Martin Romualdez, Vicente Sotto, Francis Tolentino, Joel Villanueva, and Miguel Zubiri.

Duterte and Marcos won in all these identified areas. Those located in Agusan del Sur, Nueva Ecija, Rizal, Dasmariñas City, and Quezon City delivered anywhere between 98% and 100% of votes for these candidates – proving that the INC’s power to influence voters in these areas remains considerable.

Also, in these places, the 12 INC-backed senatorial bets won, and De Lima managed to get 0% to 0.2% of votes – proving the success of INC’s campaign against her in these areas.

But in the remaining precincts we identified in the 2013 polls, the lead of Duterte and Marcos aren’t that high:

  • In all 5 clustered precincts in Brgy Navarro (Gen. Trias, Cavite), the percentage of the leads of the two range from 65% to 84% only.
  • Their lead in Brgy. Wawa (Batangas City) didn’t exceed 64%.
  • They got around 87% of votes in Brgy. Masaguing (Naujan, Oriental Mindoro)
  • They got around 72% and 73% of votes, respectively, in Brgy. Garrido (Calubian, Leyte)

In the end, only 9 of the 12 senatorial candidates endorsed by INC won and were already proclaimed. INC-backed Romualdez and Tolentino were beaten by De Lima and Francis Pangilinan.

And while Duterte is already the clear winner in the presidential race, Marcos remains behind Leni Robredo in partial tally of votes.

Local races

It might be the same trend in the local scene.

The Philippine Daily Inquirer reported that reelectionist Mayor Oscar Malapitan won by a huge margin, beating an opponent – former representative Recom Echiverri – who is endorsed by INC.

Malapitan got 301,867 votes while Echiverri only had 172,278 votes.

A source told us that Caloocan is an INC stronghold, but this year’s election results prove otherwise. Duterte and Marcos led their respective races by only around 40% of votes, and at least 3 non-INC-endorsed senatorial bets – including De Lima – entered the top 12 in the city.

An INC endorsement didn’t guarantee the victory of other local candidates. In General Santos City, INC-backed mayoral candidate Ronnel Rivera and vice mayoral candidate Shirlyn Bañas won, while congressional bet Ryan Rivera lost.

Meanwhile, in Nueva Ecija – where two barangays have strong INC bloc-votes – the endorsement failed to secure a win for 3rd district congressional candidate Aurelio Umali. – Rappler.com