Philippine Daily Inquirer

Binay, Duterte also make pilgrimage


- By Maricar Cinco, Inquirer Southern Luzon and Tarra Quismundo in Manila

PRESIDENTI­AL candidates Jejomar Binay and Rodrigo Duterte met separately recently with the leaders of the influentia­l Iglesia ni Cristo (INC) whose members are known to vote as a bloc for whom the sect decides to support.

Earlier, rival candidates Mar Roxas and Grace Poe also met with the sect’s leaders, hoping to win their votes.

Duterte met with INC leader Executive Minister Eduardo Manalo on Friday, the day after Binay had a meeting also with the top leader.

In a campaign rally in Silang, Cavite, Friday night, Duterte confirmed the meeting with Manalo at the INC Central Tem- ple in Quezon City. It was Duterte who had asked for the meeting with Manalo, who had just returned from a trip abroad.

Peter Laviña, Duterte’s spokespers­on, said the meeting was meant for the mayor’s camp to clarify issues going around social media.

Asked by reporters what transpired during the meeting, Duterte said they talked about what was good for the country.

“There was nothing, we did not talk about anything in particular. I wrote him and sought an audience. I asked him if I could see him,” Duterte said.

In an e-mailed statement from his camp on Friday night, Duterte said he wanted to thank Manalo for the “warm welcome.”

It said that among the things discussed at the meeting were Duterte’s programs against crime, illegal drugs and corruption, as well as his advocacy of federalism for the Philippine­s.

“There was a lot to clarify, especially that which was coming out on social media that claimed Duterte did not need the [support of the] INC,” Laviña said in a telephone interview on Saturday.

He said Duterte would serve all Filipinos, regardless of religious belief, but he noted too the big chunk of votes the INC could deliver.

“Theirs is equivalent to one province or region,” he said, referring to the INC bloc vote.

Wait and see

Asked about Duterte’s chances of getting the INC’s endorsemen­t, Laviña said: “Let’s just wait for the [decision].”

As for Duterte, he said he would respect the INC’s decision, whatever it may be.

Will the INC throw its support behind the front-runner as it is known to do?

Binay begged off responding to the question yesterday in the wake of Duterte’s confirmati­on that he had also met with lead- ers of the sect.

“I don’t want to make a decision for the INC,” Binay told reporters in Dagupan City.

The INC has been in turmoil after some ministers exposed alleged corruption and other abuses in the reclusive organizati­on.

The sect has denied all such claims, expelling and suing those behind the allegation­s.

Problems for Pinoys

Asked if he thought the INC would pick him, Binay turned coy and uttered his trademark: “Secret.”

He continued to criticize Duterte, expressing concern the outspoken mayor may have created problems for Filipinos in Australia with his remark about raping an Australian missionary who was killed by prisoners.

Binay asked the Department of Foreign Affairs to check reports that Duterte’s remark had threatened the employment of 50 Filipinos in Australia, based on a viral social media post.

“I am asking the DFA to look into reports Filipino workers in Australia have been terminated by their employer because of the irresponsi­ble and vulgar remarks made by Mr. Duterte about wanting to rape a dead Australian missionary,” Binay said.

He blasted Duterte for lacking a sensitivit­y toward nations with which the country has deep ties, reminding him that millions of Filipinos rely on overseas employment so their families back home could live comfortabl­y.

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