Comedian on religious group’s bloc vote: Missing an Otso Diretso member

May 10, 2019 - 8:08 PM
Hugpong ng Pagbabago
Sara Duterte (C), Davao City Mayor and daughter of Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, poses with senatorial candidates of regional political party Hugpong Ng Pagbabago (HNP) during a campaign caravan in Davao City, southern Philippines on May 9, 2019. HNP is a regional political party chaired by Sara Duterte. Picture taken May 9, 2019. (Reuters/Lean Daval Jr.)

Kapamilya host and talent manager Ogie Diaz reacted to Iglesia ni Cristo’s endorsement of mostly administration-backed senatorial aspirants, stating that it should add an Otso Diretso member.

Diaz on Facebook shared a screenshot of DZRH station manager Cesar Chavez’s post where the latter reported that the religious organization placed its bets on certain names.

“Wala man lang ni isang Otso Diretso member. Maglagay tayo kahit sana walo,” the talent manager wrote with emojis.

Otso Diretso
Otso Diretso, known as the opposition slate. (campaign photo)

Senatorial bets of the opposition coalition are Rep. Gary Alejano of Magdalo party-list, Senator Bam Aquino, Chel Diokno, former solicitor general Florin Hilbay, Romulo Macalintal, former DILG Secretary Mar Roxas, former Congressman Erin Tañada and Samira Gutoc.

INC has previously announced that it openly supports Sonny Angara, Nancy Binay, Grace Poe, Cynthia Villar, Jinggoy Estrada, Lito Lapid, Bong Revilla, Pia Cayetano, Bato Dela Rosa, Bong Go, Imee Marcos and Francis Tolentino for the 2019 midterm elections.

Tolentino in an interview with reporters on Hugpong ng Pagbabago’s miting de avance on Davao City said that he has secured the the religious group’s endorsements known for bloc voting.

“Alam niyo po nagpapasalamat ako sa kapatiran ng INC. Dahil alam ko ako ang ginawa nilang number 1 candidate. I confirm that. I acknowledge that. I am eternally grateful for the endorsement coming from INC,” he said.

INC is currently headed by executive minister Bro. Eduardo Manalo, who was appointed by President Rodrigo Duterte as special envoy for overseas Filipinos’ concerns.

The group practices bloc voting in which all of its members vote for particular electoral candidates chosen by its church leaders. It has been exerting its political influence since the country first held its general elections in 1935.

INC is the third largest religious group in the Philippines, after to Christians and Muslims.

On religious endorsements 

The Philippines is among the world’s most religious countries, according to a 2017 study by international polling group Gallup International.

The country ranked fifth among 68 countries, with 90 percent of Filipinos considering themselves religious.

This is not a surprise since the Philippines is one of the most predominantly Christian nations in Asia. It has the third largest Catholic population in the world as well, according to Catholics and Culture.

Iglesia ni Cristo
A facade of Iglesia ni Cristo’s worship place. (NC-ND/Analie Astorga-Motilla)

Further proof of how religion influences Filipinos are the initiative of certain groups — particularly Iglesia ni Cristo and the El Shaddai movement — to endorse political personalities.

While the endorsement power of religious leaders may not be so high, it is still considered significant, according to religion sociologist Jayeel Cornelio.

“Religious groups have different traditions and different expectations of authority. In my field, sociology of religion, how strict a religion is, is translated to their own expectations on how people might follow the stipulations or the principles, not just the beliefs, but the political choices of their leaders,” he said.

INC spokesperson Edwil Zabala in a 2018 interview explained that the sect always considers discipline and unity among its members extremely important.

“The Bible teaches, for example, that we should be united with the leadership of the church, the executive minister of the church. If it’s a requirement, then we should follow it. So that’s where the discipline flows from,” he said.