Poe, Escudero seek INC's help, meet top leader Manalo

MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – The tandem of presidential bet Grace Poe and running mate Francis Escudero met with Iglesia ni Cristo’s executive minister Eduardo Manalo on Monday morning, April 25.

Poe denied there were preconditions set with the INC, whose members are known for bloc voting during elections. She said their tandem only paid a “courtesy call” to Manalo. 

“Wala, walang preconditions. Ang sabi lang nila sila ay magpupulong ang kanilang hanay. Sila na lang ang tanungin ninyo ng kanilang proseso kasi kami naman nagbibigay lang kami ng courtesy call at saka humihiling ng suporta, pero sila po ang nagdedesisyon,” Poe said in a chance interview in Pangasinan on Monday, April 25.

(None, no preconditions. All they said was that they would meet with their ranks. Just ask them about their process because we are just paying a courtesy call and asking for their help, but they are the ones who will ultimately decide.)

This was Poe’s second visit to the INC since the campaign began. After her meeting with the group on March 30, Poe said they only asked her for fairness in cases involving the organization, nothing more.

Poe and Escudero said they only discussed their platform of governance with the Church’s leadership.

Escudero said there is nothing wrong in seeking the INC's support, adding that it is a way for them to explain their platforms to various sectors.

“We discussed – as always – we discussed what the platform of government is, kung ano po 'yung plataporma natin. Marami rin sila kasing mga miyembro na nasa sektor ng agrikultura, 'yon pinag-usapan namin 'yon,” she said. (What our platforms are. They have many members in the agriculture sector, that's what we talked about.)

"Lahat naman siguro ng kandidato sinusuyo ang iba’t ibang grupo, religious man o hindi kabilang na ang Iglesia ni Cristo. At hindi naman siguro sila dapat pulan kung gagawin ‘yan dahil pagkakataon pa rin ‘yon maipaliwanag ang kanilang programa at plataporma sa bawat sektor, bawat grupo - malaki man o maliit – lalo na kung malaki," Escudero said in a press conference in Quezon City.

(All candidates court various groups – whether religious our not – including the Iglesia ni Cristo. They should not be criticized for that because it's also a chance for them to explain their programs and platforms to each sector and group – big or small – especially if it's big.)

While Poe openly admitted they are seeking the support of the INC, she said no assurance of support was given them just yet. She, however, said they remain hopeful that they would eventually get the INC’s endorsement.

“Pero alam 'nyo naman ang desisyon, hindi naman nila sasabihin sa ’yo, sila lang po ang magpapasya no'n. Basta kami hinihingi namin ang suporta nila at sana maibigay; kung hindi naman, gagalangin natin. Meron din namang mga iba rin na mga grupo na bilang isang kandidato nagbibigay tayo ng kortesiya,” she said.

(But you know, they will not inform you of the decision, they will just decide. We are just seeking their support and I hope they would give it. If not, we will respect it. We already talked to others groups, to which candidates should pay courtesy.)

The neophyte senator was the 4th presidential candidate to meet with the INC leader, after administration standard-bearer Manuel Roxas II, Vice President Jejomar Binay, and Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte.

INC leaders endorse national candidates to their brother and sisters in the days leading up to the elections. In 2010, they backed the candidacy of President Benigno Aquino III. (READ: How potent is the INC's vote delivery system?)

But the organization faced its worst crisis in 2015, when its leaders faced allegations of corruption and abuse of power. In August, thousands of members held protests in major thoroughfares in Metro Manila against the Department of Justice’s alleged mishandling of the cases.

Poe earlier drew flak for her stand on the issue, with critics saying she is pandering to the bloc-voting group when she said INC members were just "defending their faith" against the DOJ. (WATCH: Full comment of Grace Poe on INC issue)

Up to 1.37 million of around 55 million Filipino voters, or 2.4% of the voting population, belong to the INC. – Rappler.com

Camille Elemia

Camille Elemia is Rappler's lead reporter for media, disinformation, and democracy. She won an ILO award in 2017. She received the prestigious Fulbright-Hubert Humphrey fellowship in 2019, allowing her to further study media and politics in the US. Email camille.elemia@rappler.com

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