MANILA (UPDATE) - Influential religious group Iglesia ni Cristo has endorsed 12 senatorial candidates, 9 of whom are backed by the administration, according to a list seen by ABS-CBN News on Sunday, the eve of the May 13 midterm polls.
The list, handed out to members of the sect known for its bloc voting, endorsed the following candidates:
- Sonny Angara
- Nancy Binay
- Pia Cayetano
- Ronald Dela Rosa
- Jinggoy Estrada
- Christopher "Bong" Go
- Lito Lapid
- Imee Marcos
- Grace Poe
- Ramon "Bong" Revilla, Jr.
- Francis Tolentino
- Cynthia Villar
Of these candidates, only Poe, Lapid and Binay are not running under regional party Hugpong ng Pagbabago chaired by President Rodrigo Duterte's daughter, Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio.
Poe is an independent candidate, while Lapid is from the Nationalist People's Coalition and Binay is from the United Nationalist Alliance.
The candidates endorsed by INC all made it to the top 15 of a May 3-6 voter preference survey by Pulse Asia.
None of the 12 candidates backed by the sect were from opposition slate Otso Diretso.
Last month, only one opposition candidate -- reelectionist Sen. Bam Aquino -- secured the support of Catholic charismatic group El Shaddai. Majority of the 14 candidates endorsed by the group were also from Hugpong.
In the 2016 elections, Iglesia backed then-Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte and then-Sen. Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. Duterte won, while Marcos lost to then-Camarines Sur Rep. Leni Robredo.
Social Weather Stations (SWS) president Mahar Mangahas, in a September 2015 Inquirer column, estimated the voting strength of the INC to be 1.7 million in the May 2016 national elections.
Opposition candidates, who were lagging in voter surveys, said they were banking on votes from Catholics.
Duterte has repeatedly slammed Catholic priests and some of its teachings.