Really, how influential is the INC?
By: Harvey S. Keh
President Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III must be very happy with how this week is turning out for him. The recent Pulse Asia survey showed that while his trust rating has dipped a bit, it still remains very high considering that many were expecting a big drop after his first few months in office. Another huge victory for his administration has been the resounding impeachment of Ombudsman Merceditas Guttierez at the House of Representatives. Many people expected the Ombudsman to be impeached but not by 212 congressmen which is more than double the required 94 votes to impeach Guttierez. This goes to show how much PNoy has grown stronger politically especially within the House of Representative where many people thought would be a battleground between him and former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. More importantly, I think our leaders in the House of Representatives really saw the growing public disgust with Guttierez which eventually persuaded them to support the impeachment despite pressures from other influential groups allied with the former President.
Days are numbered
With the impeachment of Guttierez, it looks like the happy days of former President Arroyo are numbered especially now that the allies of PNoy have shown that they have complete control of the House of Representatives. Many observers believe that by taking our Guttierez, the cases filed against the former President will now be able to progress. These cases on graft and corruption such as the Fertilizer Scam and the NBN-ZTE Broadband deal are part of the articles of impeachment that will now be forwarded to the Senate. This is certainly good news for many Filipinos who have waited for so long to get to finally know the truth and are longing for justice. Yet, it is still premature to celebrate given that the Senate will still hold a trial to determine whether or not Guttierez is guilty of betrayal of public trust. Let us remember that we will need at least 16 Senators to vote to be able to oust Guttierez from her post. I am sure that the allies of Arroyo will move heaven and earth just to ensure that they will be able to convince at least 7 Senators to side with them. If this happens, Arroyo and Guttierez may actually have the last laugh. It is imperative that public pressure is sustained so we can show our Senators that we want and need a new Ombudsman.
Influence of Iglesia ni Cristo (INC)?
As early as Friday last week, reliable sources from the House of Representatives told me that the influential church group, Iglesia ni Cristo or INC has been calling up Congressmen to persuade them not to support the impeachment against Guttierez. This is also the reason why some leaders of the Liberal Party weren’t very confident in getting more than 120 votes from the House of Representatives. Although 120 votes is more than enough to impeach, it would have been a flawed victory if majority of the members of the House of Representatives voted in support of the Ombudsman. Insiders have said that the reason why INC was trying to wield its influence is because PNoy refused several favors that they have asked from him. Whether this is true or not, I think the impeachment vote last Monday clearly showed their waning influence in our political landscape.
Although I have good friends who are members of the INC, I still cannot understand how their leaders decide to choose which candidates to support during election time. Being a religious group, I would like to believe that they would be bastions of moral, ethical and righteous governance yet in the last elections, they actually supported candidates that are known to perpetuate graft and corruption as well as illegal activities.
In Quezon City , they supported the candidacy of one of Arroyo’s staunchest supporters, former Rep. Mat Defensor who was defeated by our Kaya Natin! Champion of Good Governance, current Rep. Bolet Banal. If one would recall, it was Defensor who ensured that Arroyo would be protected from impeachment and from any kind of investigation when she was still President. Why would INC support someone who does not support transparency and public accountability? Why would INC support someone who continued to deprive the truth from the public? Both known icons of good governance, Among Ed Panlilio of Pampanga and Grace Padaca of Isabela also did not get the support of INC in the last elections. Instead, INC supported their opponents who are well-known operators of jueteng and illegal logging activities in their respective provinces. These kinds of choices would make you wonder whether the leaders of the INC is teaching the right set of values and principles to its members. As the saying goes, actions always speak louder than words.
I think PNoy knows too well that it wasn’t the INC or any single organization that brought him to the highest post in our land but it was genuine people power. Thus, unlike the previous tenant of Malacañang he hasn’t given in to their demands for lucrative government posts or contracts. This is the reason perhaps why the INC decided to try to throw a “tantrum” and try to show the President how influential they still are. Well, if we base their influence on the recent impeachment proceedings, then clearly PNoy has nothing at all to worry about.
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