MANILA, Philippines (1st UPDATE) - El Shaddai leader Mariano "Bro. Mike" Velarde on Monday said he will not endorse a presidential candidate in this year’s elections.
In a press conference at the Commission on Elections (Comelec) where he offered his group's services to ensure credible polls, Velarde said he will not influence voters, but will instead respect their right to make their own choices.
Velarde responded to a question on whether if he will stand by a previous statement not to endorse a candidate. He was also asked if he would continue not to make public his personal choice prior to an election.
"Ganun pa rin yun. Kasi we must respect the choice of every voter. So it's really my policy not to influence the voting of our members," he replied.
Asked what qualities he looks for in a president, Velarde said he wants a leader who can provide direction even to a divided nation, and one who knows the job of the presidency well.
Velarde said there are many among the 9 presidential bets who meet his strict standards, but added they only barely pass.
Velarde's endorsement has been sought by presidential candidates since the El Shaddai community accounts for at least 3% of voters. However, unlike the Iglesia Ni Cristo (INC), the El Shaddai does not practice bloc voting.
Velarde was earlier seen to be for Nacionalista Party (NP) presidential candidate Manny Villar, but he has apparently changed his mind. (Click here for story.)
The latest presidential survey of the Manila Standard Today shows Villar in third place behind frontrunner Benigno "Noynoy" Aquino III of the Liberal Party and former President Joseph Estrada of the Pwersa ng Masang Pilipino (PMP). (Click here for story.)
Four services offered
Velarde and a group of private businessmen, led by Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry's (PCCI) chair emeritus Donald Dee, sought an audience with the Comelec en banc on Monday afternoon to discuss how they can assist the poll body in ensuring credible elections.
Velarde and Dee offered to help the Comelec through the following:
- position helicopters in Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao to make sure that in emergency cases, Precinct Count Optical Scan (PCOS) machines may be deployed as soon as possible;
- provide communication facilities in remote areas with Philippine Long Distance Co.-SMART Communications and Globe Telecoms;
- conduct voters' education; and,
- since they are in full support of automated elections on May 10, they are calling on the people to desist from asking for a parallel manual count.
Velarde said he offered El Shaddai's manpower to support the electoral process.
He said they were assured by the Comelec that there would be no failure of elections.
Velarde also said El Shaddai would encourage Catholic parishioners to vote, including how to vote using the PCOS machines.
Motive behind offer
Jose Pardo, chair of PCCI's board of advisers, said they were offering their services as part of its broader program of helping set the agenda of the first 100 days of the next administration.
By helping ensure credible and orderly elections, Pardo said they can help the next administration get down to the important task of jump starting the economy.
Pardo, a former trade and finance secretary during the Estrada administration, said they are not supporting any presidential candidate.
He said they will support whoever comes out as the overwhelming winner in the elections.
Francis Chua, president of the PCCI, said they would like to see honest elections take place. He said they would not want the elections to fail, which is why the business group is committed to assist in the process and encourage all voters to go out and vote.
The PCCI also said they would like to see the success of the implementation of the poll automation law, which was passed in order to address the problems in manual elections. -- report from Ina Reformina, ABS-CBN News