Religious blocs fail to deliver

Posted at 05/12/2010 7:11 AM | Updated as of 05/12/2010 7:29 AM

Quiboloy, Velarde are the biggest losers

MANILA , Philippines —The results of the 2010 presidential and vice presidential elections have demystified the supposed political clout of various religious leaders who have held candidates hostage in past elections.
 
The biggest flops were Pastor Apollo Quiboloy of the Kingdom of Jesus Christ in Davao City , and Brother Mariano “Mike” Velarde of the El Shaddai Movement.
 
The Iglesia ni Cristo (INC), under the fresh leadership of the late Eraño Manalo’s son, more particularly lived up to its perceived influence in the vice presidential race.
 
Zero votes in Davao

Quiboloy rose to national prominence this year after presidential candidates scrambled to secure his endorsement. He anointed Lakas-Kampi-CMD standard bearer Gilberto Teodoro Jr. as the “next president of this nation” and the choice of the “Almighty Father.”
 
His sect supposedly has a membership of 4 million.
 
Candidates would do everything to be in his good graces. At one point, Liberal Party bet Benigno Aquino III had to apologize to Quiboloy when he failed to show up at a forum organized by the Quiboloy’s sect. Nacionalista Party presidential candidate Manuel Villar Jr. sought a separate meeting to appease the angered Quiboloy.
 
But cursory check of the results from the polling precinct in Davao City showed that Teodoro lagged behind 2 other candidates, Pwersa ng Masang Pilipino’s Joseph Estrada and Aquino; in some precincts, Teodoro even got zero votes.
 
On the national level, Teodoro barely exceeded the 4-million mark, with 85% of the election results accounted for. 
 
No Catholic vote

Going against the Catholic church’s unwritten rule of not endorsing candidates, several bishops openly supported ang Kapatiran Party’s John Carlos de los Reyes. The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) also indirectly endorsed Reyes’s presidential bid, based on its supposed “survey” on the position taken by the candidates on certain issues, particularly the reproductive health bill that the Church had opposed.
 
In that survey, de los Reyes, whose platform of government hews closely to Church’s dogma, topped the list, while Aquino, who is leading the poll results, was a poor sixth.
 
In latest count of the Commission on Elections (Comelec), De los Reyes is last, with only more than 30,000 votes, against Aquino’s 13 million.
 
Former CBCP president Oscar Cruz had warned Church officials against endorsing any candidate on concerns that this could split the Catholic faithful. In an earlier interview, Cruz said there is really no such thing as a Catholic bloc vote, and that bishops are better off shaping the consciences of the public.
 
INC head’s first test

This year’s national poll is the first test for new Iglesia ni Cristo executive minister Eduardo Manalo, after he took the reins of the religious organization founded by his father, who died last year.
 
The INC leader endorsed the survey frontrunners—Aquino for president and his running mate Manuel Roxas II for vice president—showing consistency with its practice in past elections of throwing its support behind obvious winners.
 
Observers say that this strategy is meant to create an impression that the candidates who are popular by themselves actually won because of INC’s endorsement.
 
In the case of its endorsement of Roxas, the INC looked like it indeed delivered. The exit polls conducted by the Social Weather Stations for TV-5 showed that 75% of INC members asked said they voted for Roxas.
 
The INC’s supposed capability to deliver command votes also had its hit and misses in the local races.
 
In Manila ’s mayoralty race, for instance, the INC’s  bet, former mayor Lito Atienza, was handily beaten by re-electionist Alfredo Lim.
 
Atienza was supposedly also backed by Catholic pro-life groups, including the Couples for Christ and the Council of the Laity of the Philippines .
 
Not solid Protestant vote

A self-styled kingmaker himself 3 presidential elections ago, Brother Eduardo “Eddie” Villanueva of the Jesus is Lord Movement ran for president for a second time this year. And, just like his 2004 bid, he lost.
 
In 1992, Villanueva endorsed defense secretary Fidel Ramos, a Protestant, who didn’t have his own political party and only formed later the rag-tag Lakas Tao party. Ramos won, but his victory was tainted by allegations of wholesale cheating in Mindanao .
 
In 1998, Villanueva anointed then Speaker Jose de Venecia Jr., the co-founder of Lakas. De Venecia finished 6 million votes behind the very popular Estrada.
 
In 2004, he took his political involvement a step farther and ran for president himself. He got 1.988 million. He not only lost the race but also the votes of other Protestant groups and Christian denominations that believed he shouldn’t have run.
 
In the current polls, Villanueva is barely scraping the 1-million mark. With 85% of the election returns counted, Villanueva is running fifth, with 985,817 votes.
 
Biggest loser

But perhaps the biggest loser was El Shaddai’s Velarde, who played neutral at the last minute.
 
He did not make any effort to hide it that his choice for president was Nacionalista’s Villar. They were long-time friends, a relationship forged way back in the 1970s., when they were both starting in the real estate business.
 
While Villar was being hit left and right on the C-5 road project—for allegedly causing a road to be diverted so it would pass through the subdivisions that his company developed, Velarde came to his rescue, although quite too late.
 
Velarde claimed that he was partly accountable for the project. His business earned a windfall of P1 billion from the project, by right of way payments to his properties, which were traversed by the road extension.
 
Villar was also the only presidential candidate that he invited when he visited the El Shaddai community in Hongkong. Villar was accompanied by his running mate, Senator Loren Legarda.
 
He would tease El Shaddai members of his choice by wearing orange in the movement’s prayer rallies. El Shaddai members number between 5-7 million, although there is no official record to back this figure.
 
Yet, 2 days before the elections, during the El Shaddai’s regular Saturday gathering (which in the past was highly anticipated because of its proximity to election day), Velarde did not openly endorse anyone.
 
Analysts say that endorsing Villar would have been political suicide for the sartorially challenged Velarde. Villar’s ratings in pre-election surveys had plunged at that time and the INC had already made known its choice of Aquino.
 
Under an Aquino administration, Velarde would be a nobody had he backed Villar.
 
Banayo said Velarde’s choices in the past—Estrada and Arroyo—have proven to be morally questionable. Estrada was ousted in 2001 following allegations of his excesses while Arroyo proved to be the least popular president since Marcos. (abs-cbnNews.com/Newsbreak)
 
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