Analyst: Endorsement from INC might backfire on candidates in 2016

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Political analyst Dindo Manhit says what the public saw in the recent protest action of INC was a religious organization "flexing its political muscle."

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines) — Candidates would try to get their support. The Iglesia ni Cristo (INC), after all, is believed to vote as a bloc.

Currently, there's an estimated two million INC voters.

That's a lot of votes which could spell victory in a tight election race, political analyst Dindo Manhit said on Tuesday (September 1).

Considering INC's recent protest, though, Manhit said an endorsement from the religious group may actually backfire on candidates.

"Because what we saw really is an organization, a religious organization, flexing its political muscle. We don't like the church doing that," Manhit noted.

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Local officials quickly issued rally permits to INC.

Despite public outrage over the heavy traffic the rallies caused, the INC was allowed to hold their so-called vigil for days.

For some, it was a test of character for the presidential aspirants – most of whom defended INC's right to free speech and religious freedom.

Militant group Bayan, which often holds mass actions, said the government should treat all assemblies and protests equally.

Renato Reyes, the group's secretary general, said protests by leftist groups were less tolerated, and often dispersed.

Manhit added that while INC could bring in votes, candidates – at least this time around – should think twice about seeking its endorsement.

To begin with, he said, it does not guarantee a win.

Former presidents Joseph Estrada, Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and President Benigno Aquino III — were all endorsed by INC for the presidency.

But not even the INC can make everyone win.

The INC backed Ferdinand Marcos in the 1986 snap elections and Eduardo Cojuangco Jr. in 1992. Both lost.

Though INC endorsed the Noy-Mar tandem in 2010 — Interior Secretary Manuel "Mar" Roxas II could not win the vice presidency.

In the 2013 senatorial race – two of the INC's 12 bets didn't make it to the top 12.

So what happens when an endorsed candidate wins?

Manhit said the candidate would give political favors in return.

For winning presidents, this usually means appointing INC members to government posts.

Manhit said it's ironic – considering how INC has been appealing for separation of church and state.

"They want separation... But they (INC) are the only church in the country that tries to use the clout of their church for political influence," he said.