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Comfort in the arms of INC

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At Large

Comfort in the arms of INC

Just as the first of the planned impeachment complaints was being filed in the House of Representatives—complete with color-coded photo ops—P-Noy was in Bulacan, the main guest of the Iglesia Ni Cristo inaugurating the 75-hectare “Ciudad de Victoria.”

The Ciudad is a complex of sports facilities, meeting halls and even residences, with the major structure being the Philippine Arena, said to be the world’s biggest indoor arena whose round profile is immediately visible from the North Luzon Expressway.

The juxtaposition of events demonstrates, to my mind, the secret behind the INC’s political power and influence. The church has long been known for the influence it wields, especially at the local level, because believers follow the guidance of their leaders when it comes to elections. Whoever is supported by the INC leadership wins the votes of INC members.

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National polling organizations downplay the role and power of the INC bloc vote in national elections, pointing out the string of presidential candidates who, despite the church’s support, still lost to their rivals. But at the local level, political pundits point out, the INC bloc vote makes a decisive difference because the numbers determinae the winners and losers in electoral contests.

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P-Noy’s presence at the INC’s grand celebration—around the time of its 100th anniversary—demonstrates another facet of the church’s influence.

Aside from guaranteeing or promising votes, the INC also plays a role in influencing public opinion. Its millions of believers (estimated at between four million and five million) make for a decisive force, however you look at it. But it is their unanimity of opinion and action that makes them particularly potent. Being the third biggest religious organization in the country—after Roman Catholicism and Islam—the INC wields extraordinary influence, especially because it is able to parlay its support into the appointment of its members to key government posts.

There is little doubt that his presence at the INC event gave P-Noy a measure of comfort. The huge crowd and the warm welcome must have held out some hope and reassurance that at least some of the populace supports him.

“We give our heartfelt thanks to the Iglesia Ni Cristo for your concern to your fellowmen; you are truly showing this not just in words but in action,” the President told the crowd gathered at the Philippine Arena.

Perhaps at the back of P-Noy’s mind was the contrast between the INC’s support and the continued brickbats hurled at him by Catholic bishops, not all of whom are necessarily “GMA bishops.” Conspicuous, for instance, was retired archbishop Oscar Cruz in the front row of those who filed the impeachment complaint against P-Noy.

Not noted for his religiosity, P-Noy hasn’t seemed particularly beholden to the bishops, unlike, say, GMA, who assiduously courted the “robed ones” not just with a show of piety but also with largesse including SUVs and outright donations of cash. In contrast, P-Noy hasn’t been shy about challenging the bishops, particularly when he threw his support behind the passage of the Reproductive Health Law against which the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines vociferously protested.

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And that is how the INC steps into the vacuum of influence vacated by the Catholic bishops.

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Shocking, indeed, are reports from Ukraine that detail—in the words of wire agencies—the “shambolic” state of rescue efforts in the area where Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 crashed, killing nearly 300 passengers and crew.

The US government, for one, has blamed pro-Russian Ukrainian separatists for bringing down the plane, claiming Russia armed the rebels, particularly the missile launcher that supposedly targeted the commercial aircraft.

But what really defies the usual standards of human decency are stories that the separatists carted away some of the cadavers and body parts found on site, threatening airline investigators looking into the causes of the tragedy. Their actions not only hampered efforts to determine the cause of the plane crash, but may even have prevented the families of the dead from getting custody of the remains of their loved ones and providing them a decent interment.

Could one get any more baser or more cruel?

It’s good news, then, that the United Nations Security Council is considering passage of a resolution demanding that armed groups “refrain from any actions that may compromise the integrity of the crash site.” But will the Ukrainian separatists listen to the UN, much less follow its advice? The proverbial cooler heads should immediately intervene before the troubles in Ukraine escalate into a wider, international conflict.

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Still and all, one has to ponder the odds that another Malaysia Airlines flight should figure in a tragedy, even as another plane remains missing. Despite all the modern technology and the massive number of military deployed in the search, no one knows for sure what happened to that previous flight.

One would think that Malaysia Airlines would have been the safest airline these days, given the odds against another accident involving the same airline. But the Ukraine tragedy belies this assumption. It does indeed seem that when bad luck hounds you, there is no escaping it. But why? The answers are as elusive as justice for the victims, it seems.

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TAGS: Ciudad de Victoria, Iglesia Ni Cristo, nation, news, North Luzon Expressway
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