By TJ Burgonio
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 21:34:00 02/10/2010
MANILA, Philippines—Acknowledging its crucial role in her electoral victories, President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo on Wednesday tried anew to woo the support of the powerful Iglesia ni Cristo as she gears up for her unprecedented congressional run.
Ms Arroyo spoke about the Urban Luzon Beltway (ULB) at the INC-run New Era University in Quezon City, but in the end, she solicited the same support from the powerful sect.
She thanked the INC for listing her as its No. 1 senatorial candidate in their sample ballot years ago, and backing her teaming up with Vice President Noli de Castro in the 2004 presidential election.
“Thank you for supporting me since making me No. 1 as a senator. That time, some of you were not born yet, but your eyes were opened,” she told the crowd of university officials and students. “We are standing shoulder to shoulder, and I expect that until the end of our mission for our country, we’re still standing shoulder to shoulder,” she added in Filipino.
Ms Arroyo is stepping down on June 30, but is making an unprecedented run for the congressional seat of the second district of her home province Pampanga in the May national elections.
The INC, which counts millions of followers, reputedly votes as a bloc during elections. National and local candidates assiduously seek its endorsement.
It wasn’t clear why Ms Arroyo chose to speak about her administration’s flagship project at the sectarian university, but she indicated that she was happy to be there to thank the INC members for their unwavering support.
“I’m happy to be here to give respect and express gratitude to the youth of the Iglesia ni Cristo through you,” she said in her speech, aired live over the government-run dzRB radio.
She noted that she and Vice President Noli de Castro rarely go to the same affair, but said she was glad to see him at the New Era University before an “important audience.”
The audience included former Justice Secretary Serafin Cuevas, the university’s chair of the board, and members of the board.
In a briefing in Malolos, Bulacan, Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita conceded that the INC played a crucial role in elections, and that it would be prudent for administration standard-bearer Gilbert Teodoro to seek its endorsement.
“I guess the President is just saying the truth that the INC is very supportive to the administration. I think you know that in elections, you need the support of such big groups, and the INC is such big group,” he said.
Ermita said he expected Teodoro to “reach out to the INC.”
Ermita also downplayed reports about Ms Arroyo’s absence from Tuesday night’s proclamation rally of Teodoro, his running mate Edu Manzano and senatorial candidates of the Lakas Kampi CMD in Antipolo City.
Since yielding the party leadership to Teodoro, Ms Arroyo has let the standard-bearer and officials of the party run the presidential campaign.
“That’s the President’s way of the telling the people that the party’s choice for its presidential candidate is worthy of their votes,” he said. “That’s proof that Gibo together with his team can stand on his feet as a leader.”