El Shaddai leader's senatorial list not an endorsement for bloc vote - adviser

Trishia Billones, ABS-CBN News

Posted at May 06 2019 02:08 PM | Updated as of May 06 2019 02:27 PM

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MANILA - The 14-person senatorial lineup endorsed by Bro. Mike Velarde of the Catholic charismatic group El Shaddai is not meant to sway their followers into voting similarly, the leader's political adviser said Monday.

Velarde announced Saturday his list, which is made primarily of candidates from Hugpong ng Pagbabago, with a mix of some independent and opposition candidates.

But El Shaddai, a 5-million strong flock, does not have a bloc vote and a previously commissioned study showed only 40 percent of their total members would follow Velarde "blindly," said political adviser Wilfrido Villarama.

"Ang El Shaddai, we are not into bloc voting. Bro. Mike believes in free will, he believes in conversion kasi kinukwestiyon yung ibang tao na may record na," Villarama told ANC's Early Edition.

Velarde also made it clear to candidates who sought his endorsement that the remaining 60 percent of their flock would vote based on their own preference and would not blindly heed his list, said Villarama.

That Velarde's roster has 14 names, instead of 12 which is the number of senators to be voted, also proves that there is no bloc vote, he said.

This lineup included Cynthia Villar, Christopher "Bong" Go, Ronald "Bato" Dela Rosa, Grace Poe, Imee Marcos, Nancy Binay, Aquilino "Koko" Pimentel III, Francis Tolentino, Sonny Angara, Bong Revilla, Jinggoy Estrada, JV Ejercito, Bam Aquino, and Willie Ong.

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The inclusion of Dela Rosa, a former police chief who was at the forefront of President Rodrigo Duterte's bloody war on drugs at its inception, in the Catholic group's list was questioned by some sectors. The charismatic group is pro-life and shares the Church's opposition to the death penalty, which Dela Rosa advocates for.

However, the scope of death penalty is still to be debated upon, said Villarama. 

"Pag masyadong sobra ang krimen, pwede, ayon kay Dela Rosa. Yan, he can prove that pag dating na lang ng lobbying sa Congress at sa Senado," he said.

Although Velarde does not hope to wield some influence on these would-be lawmakers, Villarama said he at least hopes he could talk to them as they did during the campaign period.

"Sinasabi niya lagi, ang Simbahan, anti-death penalty, anti-gay marriage—yung linya ng Catholic Church. Alam nila yun: pag dumating ang panahon na talagang bakbakan kunyari sa death penalty, magla-lobby kami. They can follow Bro. Mike or hindi, pero at least puwedeng mag-usap bilang magkapatid," he said.

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The flock's leaders also distributed a questionnaire to the group to rate the senatorial candidates. Among the criteria sought answers on the lifestyle of the candidate.

Yet, among the candidates Velarde endorsed were Revilla and Estrada, who served jail time for their supposed illegal disbursement of congressional discretionary funds, and Go, a former presidential aide whose campaign spending allegedly exceeded his declared wealth.

It also urged the members to ask if the candidates are part of a political dynasty. Velarde's list included Binay, Marcos, Estrada, Ejercito, and Revilla who have other family members seeking public office.