PRESIDENT Benigno Aquino III visited the Iglesia ni Cristo central office on Commonwealth Avenue in Quezon City Monday, a week before the May 9 elections to seek an endorsement for administration candidates Manuel Roxas II for president and Leni Robredo for vice president.
Aquino’s convoy entered the INC compound at 9 a.m. and left the church about an hour later.
In an interview after his visit, Aquino said he spoke with INC executive minister Eduardo Manalo and thanked him for supporting the administration.
Aquino said he also shared with Manalo his vision for the country after he steps down from office on June 30.
“First, I thanked him because we really felt their support,” Aquino told reporters in Filipino.
“As usual, I was received warmly by Ka Eduardo. I have no complaints,” the President said, without explaining what he meant when he said he also made “the usual... political appeals.”
In a statement issued later, Aquino said: “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.”
Several politicians have sought the endorsement of the INC, whose support could translate to about 1.5 million to 1.8-million votes on Election Day, according to the research company Pulse Asia.
The INC claims to have five million members who vote as a bloc.
This month, presidential candidates Roxas, Vice President Jejomar Binay, Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte, Senator Grace Poe and Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago took turns visiting the INC Central Office.
The INC previously endorsed the candidacies of Aquino and his two predecessors, President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo and President Joseph Estrada.
The INC did not comment on Aquino’s visit, but denied a report (not in The Standard) that it was endorsing Duterte. “The letter [expressing support] is not from Brother Eduardo Manalo,” INC spokesman Edwil Zabala said. “The moment we identify the persons responsible for this fraudulent letter containing the forged signature of Brother Eduardo Manalo, we will charge them in court.”
On Monday, the President asked the Filipino people if they wanted to continue his “straight path” policies.
“It is up to you whether you would want to continue and further strengthen this,” Aquino said.
Meanwhile, in Tarlac City, Poe said that neither the Catholic charismatic movement El Shaddai nor the INC has endorsed anyone, adding that their support would boost her bid to become president.
She said when she talked to El Shaddai founder Mike Velarde, he said the movement had not yet decided who to endorse.
“Whatever the decision of the organization, of course, it’s their prerogative and we will respect it,” she said. “We were just giving courtesy and asking for help.” With Macon Ramos-Araneta
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