Elections and organized religions

FROM FAR AND NEAR - Ruben Almendras - The Freeman

It is well known that the Iglesia Ni Cristo (INC), a local Filipino Christian sect endorses national and local candidates every election as leverage or a bargaining chip with potential winning candidates. It usually endorses the candidates after assessing the winnability of the candidates and near the election dates. Sometimes their supported candidates wins and sometimes they lose, and from available data from the 1960s they are correct only 50% of the time, like most predictors, fortunetellers, or most of us. INC and El Shaddai endorsed BBM in 2016 and he lost. Still, they are able to parlay their influence with the winners in terms of concessions and favors.

By organized religion, we refer to religious groups that have organizational structures, hierarchy, and significant followers. These would include the largest which is the Roman Catholic Church, the different Protestant churches or Evangelical Christians, the Muslims, the Buddhists, and some Indian religions. It also includes some Catholic and Christian sects, like the El Shaddai, JIL, and other born-again organizations. And also Catholic lay organizations like BCBP, BLD, Couples for Christ, Lingkod sa Panginoon, and other structured prayer groups. All of these organizations are of growing relevance in Philippine politics and in the coming elections.

The importance of being an organized religion is because it is expected that these religious groups have rules and regulations, and a set of morals and ethical standards to follow and enforce on its members. The more that they are able to maintain and discipline their members to follow them, the more they can influence their members to vote according to the preference of their organization. Assuming that these religious groups adhere to the moral/ethical standards of truth and justice, they would have to endorse the candidates that pass their standards. Endorsing candidates in elections is a dilemma and a crucial test of the legitimacy of these religious groups, as endorsing candidates who do not meet their moral criteria diminishes the moral authority of the group leaders, goes out of sync with the follower’s sentiments, and has long-term consequences on the continuity of the group. All organizations have to promote truth, fairness, and justice to maintain social order and progress within the group and to interact with other groups. Foregoing or bypassing moral teachings for material concessions will eventually erode the authority and legitimacy of religious organizations.

The humongous Catholic and Protestant churches in the Philippines, that have maintained a distance from politics and elections for many years, are actually the most important influencers. While it has its share of moral scandals, these were of the individual ministers and not from the hierarchy. It has kept the moral high ground most of the time. It had always encouraged their followers to choose the candidates that embody the Christian ideals without endorsing the party or of the particular candidates, except in the extreme cases like the EDSA People Power Revolution and the ouster of Estrada. Recently the Catholic and Protestant churches have been more vocal on the injustice of the extra-judicial killings, corruptions, and impunity of the government, that it will likely play a more prominent role in the coming election due to the flagrant moral and ethical violations of the government and of some of the candidates. These can be gleaned and observed in the rising voices of some of the bishops, priests, and the lay communities. The volunteer groups that are campaigning are emphasizing moral qualifications of the candidates, and that this is a fight between “good versus evil” for God and country. It is very difficult to be with Quiboloy, who is charged with moral and criminal offenses in America, and his endorsed candidates.


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