The INC endorsement myth
1Sambayan, a group of pro-democracy advocates who banded together to pursue a common cause—to bring back integrity, honesty, and competence in governance—has endorsed certain candidates for president, vice president, and senator.
The group firmly believes the endorsed candidates would bring back good governance. Other civil society groups have also declared their support for certain candidates who they feel will advance their respective causes.
The Iglesia Ni Cristo (INC), whose endorsement politicians seek zealously if not desperately, has not announced who its anointed candidates are. It usually does about a week before election day, when the rankings of the candidates in the polls shall have stabilized. It endorses candidates not on the basis of any moral or political standard but on who the public opinion polls show to be the most likely winners.
That has been shown to be true in past electoral exercises. In 2004, it delayed its endorsement of Gloria Arroyo until the week before election day when she emerged as being ahead of Fernando Poe Jr., the rumored preference of the sect, in the polls. In 2010, it switched from Sen. Manuel Villar to Sen. Noynoy Aquino five days before election day, when Aquino had dislodged Villar from being the topnotcher in the polls.
In 2019, it announced close to election day which 12 senatorial candidates it was endorsing. All were among those who occupied the top 12 spots in the last survey conducted by Pulse Asia that year.
An exception was its early endorsement of presidential candidate Joseph Estrada in the 1998 elections. That year, it endorsed Estrada for president months before the elections. This in spite of the fact that Estrada’s private life is the antithesis to the teachings of the religious sect.
Adulterous relationships, gambling of any kind, and excessive drinking are prohibited by the sect. Members found guilty of transgression of those rules have been suspended or expelled.
Estrada sired children with several women. He frequented the casinos. His drinking sprees with his close friends were said to be nocturnal occurrences. But the sect endorsed Estrada just the same because the Social Weather Stations consistently projected Estrada as the overwhelming preference of the voters throughout the campaign period. Pulse Asia was not yet in existence in 1998.
In October last year, former senator JV Ejercito unwittingly revealed the practice of the INC with regard to its endorsement of candidates. In the Oct. 5 episode of the TV talk show “Headstart,” he said he was not endorsed by the sect in 2019 because he was not among the senatorial candidates in the top 12 in the polls.
Ejercito is running again for senator in this year’s elections. He said he has been told by the INC that he will be endorsed this time because in the last surveys before the 2019 elections, he was among the 12 in the winning circle. He was not endorsed then because by the time the survey results were released, the sect had already finalized its senatorial slate.
That is how the INC chooses the candidates it asks its faithful to vote for. It endorses only those candidates that the polls show to be likely winners. That practice has given the less discerning traditional politicians the impression that INC’s bloc vote is the deciding factor in the success of a candidate’s quest for an elective post.
The candidates it endorsed in 2019 would have won with or without its endorsement as they were really the people’s choice as the surveys indicated. Jinggoy Estrada was among the 12 senatorial candidates it endorsed but he lost. Koko Pimentel was re-elected senator even without the vaunted INC endorsement.
The explanation for this is that the INC endorsed Jinggoy because the survey results released the week before election day showed him to be among those in the winning circle. But the actual survey was done weeks before election day. A lot of things happen between the time voters were interviewed and the time they actually cast their vote that can influence their final choices.
The Iglesia Ni Cristo’s endorsement as the deciding factor in a candidate’s success is a myth.
Oscar P. Lagman, Jr. was in charge of public opinion research at Robot Statistics, the first public opinion pollster in the country and the Philippine affiliate of Gallup Poll.
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