By Jeanne Camille Hernandez and Roleen Delos Reyes
Religious organizations are a target for politicians during the elections. These institutions have produced valuable amount of votes for their chosen candidates.
However, the questions remain. Why do they engage in block voting? How do these organizations choose who to vote for? Do their members really follow them?
Joan* is a first time voter this May. She is also an active member of Iglesia ni Cristo or INC. She claimed to be aware that INC block votes. Joan* added that her church requires all its members to become registered voters once they are of legal age.
When asked why her church block votes, Joan* cited a passage from the bible which reads:
“I appeal to you, brothers and sisters, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another in what you say and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly united in mind and thought.” – 1 Corinthian 1:10
This is the verse serves as the rationale behind their voting process. “Isa siyang uri ng pagkakaisa”, said Joan*. However, she clarifies that they do not call it an “endorsement” but “dadalhin (ng Iglesia)”.
On the selection process
Student-members of INC admitted their little knowledge of how the processes go. Claire*, also a member of INC, says that candidates go to the Central INC office in Commonwealth to ask the church officials for support or “na dalhin sila ng Iglesia”. The candidates then undergo the strict filter process prepared by the INC Church leaders.
However, Claire* said that a prior consultation, tackling people’s condition, is done before any actions can be taken by their church leaders.
She also emphasized that, as long as possible, members of INC are not allowed to campaign for a candidate, or be a part of any campaign team. This is done to prevent politicians from using INC members to help influence the selection process.
One with the faith?
According to Joan*, INC members are given a list or a sample ballot that contains all the names of the candidates “na dinala ng Iglesia” before elections.
When asked if she follows the block voting, Joan* says that it’s a case-to-case basis. She also said, without hesitation, “Wala naman akong problema. Kung sino man yung ibibigay sakin na iboboto, iboboto ko.”
When asked if the INC had a way of checking, she said there is none because it is still the member’s prerogrative and “mutual trust”.
On the other side of the spectrum, there are also members who take this prerogative. Mike*, an INC member and a student leader, said that he doesn’t block vote. He stated that it is principles that affect his vote.
“Last presidential election, I voted for my personal bets. My political principles are separated from my religious beliefs”, Mike* said.
*Names of interviewed students were changed due to the request of anonymity.