MANILA, Philippines – The Iglesia ni Cristo (INC) denied on Monday, May 2, that its leaders are endorsing Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte as the religious group's presidential candidate.
The rumor came after a viral Facebook post of a letter supposedly from INC leader Eduardo Manalo telling INC members to support Duterte's presidency.
"The letter is not from Brother Eduardo Manalo," INC spokesman Edwil Zabala told Rappler through a text message.
He added that INC officials intend to file a case against whoever is behind the fake letter.
"The moment we identify the person/s responsible for this fraudulent 'letter' containing the forged signature of Brother Eduardo Manalo, we will charge them in court," Zabala said.
The fake letter, dated May 2, reads, "Sa pamamagitan ng liham na ito ay itinatagubilin ko sa inyo na si RODRIGO ROA DUTERTE ang opisyal na ineendorso ng ating kapatiran upang suportahan bilang Pangulo ng Pilipinas sa halalan sa darating na ika-9 ng Mayo."
(Through this letter, I am letting you know that our group is officially endorsing Rodrigo Roa Duterte for president this coming elections on May 9.)
A particularly prominent post of the letter can be found on the Facebook account of Bisaya Republic. It has been shared more than 13,800 times as of posting.
Duterte, as well as other presidential candidates, has paid a visit to INC leaders. It is traditional for candidates to court the INC since the religious group is said to be able to deliver over a million votes due to its practice of voting as one bloc. (READ: How potent is the INC's vote delivery system?)
Recently, the INC also fended off rumors that it is endorsing the vice presidential bid of Senator Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr.
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.