Mong Palatino

blogging about the philippine left and southeast asian politics since 2004


@mongster is a manila-based activist, former philippine legislator, and blogger/analyst of asia-pacific affairs.

March 11: The Red Shirts are coming!
March 13: Calm before the storm?
March 15: “Reds” vow a bigger rally today

An Insider’s Diary on the 2010 Philippine elections. My Yahoo Meme account.

Religious groups are powerful political blocs in the Philippines as they can deliver solid votes to their anointed candidates. Because of this ‘divine’ intervention, all candidates–especially those aspiring for national positions–are doing everything they can to be “blessed” by influential church leaders.

The Catholic Church wields a strong influence in the country’s politics. Candidates are afraid to antagonize the bishops, who can mount an effective negative campaign against politicians. Proof of the persuasive lobby power of bishops is the continued non-adoption of an artificial family planning program in all government agencies. Likewise, presidential aspirants have withdrawn their support for the controversial Reproductive Health Bill, as demanded by the Catholic Church.

But some analysts believe that the perceived power of the Catholic Church to influence elections results is overstated. First, unlike other Christian church groups, the Catholic Church doesn’t endorse candidates. Second, it doesn’t force its flock to support a particular candidate or party. What it does is to issue pastoral statements which inform voters about the moral issues which should be addressed during elections.

Analysts also point out that the Catholic Church failed to stop the candidacy of former President Fidel Ramos in 1992, the country’s first Protestant president and advocate of contraceptives. The Catholic Church also failed to prevent the electoral victory of former President Joseph Estrada in 1998, a showbiz actor whose lifestyle was often criticized by religious authorities.

The Catholic Church can mobilize people in the streets, but it seems unable to guide the faithful with respect to the latter’s voting preferences.

The church group with a proven record of delivering the promised votes is the Iglesia ni Cristo (Church of Christ). This church requires its members to vote only for the national and local candidates endorsed by its officials. The Iglesia vote is desired by every presidential aspirant because it can translate into more than 3 million solid votes.

Another politically-important church group is the evangelical Christian group El Shaddai. Candidates who wish to be endorsed by this church often attend the group’s large weekend assemblies which often last until the wee hours in the morning.

Another evangelical Christian group, Jesus is Lord Church, is fielding a presidential candidate in the 2010 elections. The leader of this congregation also ran in 2004, but secured less than two million votes.

Earlier this week, Pastor Apollo Quiboloy of the Kingdom of Jesus Christ in Davao City sponsored an election debate which was attended by almost all presidential candidates. The event was boycotted by JC De los Reyes, a presidential candidate who is hoping to be endorsed by local Roman Catholic bishops. De los Reyes said the other candidates didn’t go to Davao to articulate their platforms but to secure the support of Pastor Quiboloy.

The Muslim voting population in the Philippines, meanwhile, is also politically significant. But there’s no religious leader who can mobilize the votes of all Muslims throughout the country. However, powerful Muslim families can influence the votes of their followers in some provinces in Mindanao Island.

It’s not wrong for church groups to take an active role in politics. Ordinary people look up to church authorities for moral guidance on public issues. But some scholars don’t welcome the interference of the church in governmental affairs as they cite the doctrine of the separation of church and state.

During elections, the church becomes a more powerful political force that commands the respect of candidates and voters alike. Aside from asserting its dogmas, it would be better if the church would also use its influence to push for more reforms in governance.

Related articles:

Divine intervention
Rizal bill

One Response to “Flock voting”

  1. Hindi evangelical ang El Shaddai kundi charismatic catholic group. (Kung yung usual definition ng “evangelical” ang tinutukoy dito)


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