CAVITE, Philippines (UPDATED) – Rodrigo Duterte said he met with Iglesia ni Cristo (INC) leaders on Friday, April 22, before attending his rallies in Cavite.
Asked by reporters what was discussed during the meeting, the presidential race front-runner said, “Wala ho. Ano ang mabuti sa Pilipinas (Nothing. What will be good for the Philippines).”
He said there were no commitments made by the religious leaders on who the INC would be supporting for president.
“Walang pinag-usapan (Nothing was discussed),” he said, adding that he requested for the meeting.
“Ako ‘yung nagsulat, naghingi ako ng pakipag-usap kung puwede at puntahan ko (I was the one who wrote to them, I asked for a meeting if I can visit them),” he said. In past interviews, he said he would not go to the Central office of the Iglesia unless he was invited.
“I will respect their decision,” said the Davao City mayor.
In an official statement released by his camp on Saturday, April 23, Duterte said he explained his program against crime and corruption, and his bid for federalism to INC leaders.
"Ako ay nagagalak at naging positibo ang pagtanggap dito ni Ka Eduardo (I'm happy that these were positively received by Ka Eduardo)," he said.
Other presidential candidates like the Liberal Party’s Manuel “Mar” Roxas and Vice President Jejomar Binay had also recently met with INC leaders.
The INC is traditionally courted by politicians during elections due to the tendency of INC members to vote as a bloc. (READ: How potent is the INC's vote delivery system?)
The INC is thought to be capable of delivering over a million votes for a candidate. Recently wracked by internal dissension owing to allegations of corruption by its leaders, doubts have surfaced whether the Iglesia can still deliver solid votes as in the past.
The favored candidate “is half-assured of 80%” of the votes cast by INC voters in elections, according to De La Salle political science professor Gladstone Cuarteros.
INC members regard as a religious duty going to the polling precincts on Election Day to carry out the command of their leaders. Iglesia members say they do so based on the "doctrine of unity".
The Iglesia is expected to announce their candidate of choice about a week before elections on May 9. Insiders say they conduct an internal poll among themselves, but leaders also put a lot of weight on the winnabililty of the candidates they endorse. – Rappler.com
Pia Ranada covers the Office of the President and Bangsamoro regional issues for Rappler. While helping out with desk duties, she also watches the environment sector and the local government of Quezon City. For tips or story suggestions, you can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.