Candidate Buzz: Little online talk about Iglesia bloc vote

By Ivy Jean Vibar,

Posted at May 10 2013 07:02 PM | Updated as of May 11 2013 03:02 AM

MANILA – With the elections only days away, candidates are waiting with bated breath who the leaders of the Iglesia Ni Cristo (INC) will advise its followers to vote for.

Despite the INC endorsement’s importance to candidates and election watchers, however, people on social media have been relatively quiet about the highly-anticipated announcement.

According to the 2010 census, there are more than one million possible Filipino voters who follow the teachings of the Iglesia Ni Cristo.

The sect is known to practice bloc voting, based on who its leaders approve of. In April, Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago acknowledged he sect’s sway, saying the INC votes may be a “game changer."

In the 2010 polls, the INC endorsed then-Senators Benigno Aquino III for president, and Manuel “Mar” Roxas II for vice president. Aquino won the Palace seat due to a mix of factors including the INC endorsement, while Roxas lost to former Makati Mayor Jejomar Binay.

Most of the candidates endorsed by the INC in 2010 won Senate seats. However, it cannot be conclusively said that they won seats due only to the INC’s endorsement.

No buzz

According to data from the ABS-CBN and IBM Social Media Tracker, there has not been much buzz about the Iglesia Ni Cristo, despite the rumors and news reports in circulation.

A casual search on Twitter and Facebook about the sect has yielded not posts about the elections, but INC Minister Felix Manalo’s 127th birth anniversary.

A look at the mentions of the candidates in the leaked INC endorsement list also showed no significant changes despite the focus being given to them by news agencies and poll watchers.

The spike in mentions of candidates appeared mostly to be due to other issues.

For example, Nancy Binay's mentions continue to be high because of her tiff with comedian Vice Ganda, and former Las Pinas Rep. Cynthia Villar's mentions rose yesterday due to the spread of videos made by her offspring to honor her on Mother's Day.

Despite news of the Iglesia Ni Cristo's endorsements, Nancy Binay's mentions continue to be high due to her tiff with Vice Ganda, while former Las Pinas Rep. Cynthia Villar's mentions rose due to a video made by her children for Mother's Day.

Stories based on accounts of anonymous sources and leaked documents have shown that the religious sect is advising its congregation to vote for seven Team PNoy candidates for senator and five from the United Nationalist Alliance (UNA). INC is reportedly due to distribute its official list during the weekend.

The Team PNoy candidates said to be on INC’s list include Aurora Rep. Sonny Angara, presidential cousin Bam Aquino, former Las Pinas Rep. Cynthia Villar, Grace Poe Llamanzares and reelectionist Senators Loren Legarda, Alan Peter Cayetano and Antonio Trillanes.

Meanwhile, the UNA candidates said to be on the sect’s list include Vice President Jejomar Binay’s daughter Nancy, former Senator Richard Gordon, San Juan Rep. JV Ejercito, Cagayan Rep. Jack Enrile and reelectionist Sen. Gringo Honasan.

There are also several party-list groups that the sect is said to be endorsing. These include Citizens Battle Against Corruption (Cibac), Buhay Hayaang Yumabong (Buhay), Arts Business and Science Professionals (ABS), Alliance of Volunteer Educators (AVE), Anti-Crime and Terrorism thru Community Involvement & Support (ACT-CIS), Social Amelioration and Genuine Intervention on Poverty (1-SAGIP), and Aagapay sa Matatanda (AMA).

Quiet time

Despite the spread of reports on broadcast, print and online media declaring the supposed list of candidates that the more than one-million strong Iglesia Ni Cristo voters are strongly advised to vote for, there has not been much buzz about the roster.

Even candidates themselves are not tweeting about their possible endorsements, or commenting about the stories on INC’s inclusion of them in its roster.

It may be that they are playing it safe, and awaiting the sect’s official announcement this weekend.

It has only been a few people on social media who have posted about the INC list, offering congratulations and cheers of encouragement to the candidates. While INC followers are not discouraged from using social media, it may be that they are unwilling to post about who they will vote for without an official proclamation from their leaders.

Online conversation about the list may increase come the weekend, when the Iglesia Ni Cristo’s leaders make an official proclamation on who their congregation should vote for.