MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – The Iglesia ni Cristo (INC) is officially endorsing Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte for president and Senator Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr for vice president in the 2016 national elections.
A Rappler source said that the INC leadership was expected to announce its anointed candidates at their worship service on Wednesday night, May 4, along with the usual stern reminder to stick to these choices when they cast their vote on Monday, May 9.
Active members had started to post Wednesday night who their candidates for the presidential elections would be. The "katiwalas" or those assigned to distribute sample ballots to Iglesia members had started to do the rounds.
The tandem are in a sample ballot obtained by Rappler on Wednesday, May 4.
In a statement released Thursday, May 5, the camp of Duterte said, "We welcome the endorsement of the Iglesia ni Cristo INC). This is a big boost to our campaign particularly to thwart attempts by the administration to cheat the elections."
Duterte's spokesman Peter Laviña said, "This endorsement shows that Duterte's advocacy for Tunay Na Pagbabago has resonated to almost all our people and all our church formations affected by the rising crimes and drugs, continuing corruption and government neglect, poverty and sufferings of our people… We thank the INC as well all other religious groups and religious leaders."
Duterte and Marcos, as well as administration vice presidential bet candidate Leni Robredo, are leading in the presidential and vice presidential races, respectively, based on the latest ABS-CBN survey released Wednesday morning.
Two days earlier, the INC disowned a letter supposedly from INC leader Eduardo Manalo telling members to support Duterte's presidency. The INC leadership said it would file a case against the person behind the fake letter. (READ: INC official: Duterte endorsement letter ‘fraudulent’)
Recently, the INC also fended off rumors that it was endorsing the vice presidential bid of Marcos.
President Benigno Aquino III went to the Iglesia's Central Office in Quezon City Monday morning, May 2, to meet with Manalo and make some "political appeals".
"I asked for the meeting. I thanked him for the support he and his brethren have extended to us. I enumerated the gains under 'Daang Matuwid.' Lastly I expressed the hope that these gains will not only be continued but built upon in the future," Aquino said.
Earlier in February, results of The Standard Poll done by Laylo Research Strategies, showed that Poe was the INC members' most preferred presidential bet.