Politics, religion and charlatans

Politics, religion and charlatans Featured

THE days of DU30 cursing God, I think, are over. He has been chastised. But the aftershock of his barrage will impact this election cycle. The formidable Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) has lingering memories of his blasphemy. You can’t mess with their God! In the past, they have never been reluctant to instruct their priests to use the pulpit to defend the Church and advance its agenda, political or otherwise. This time the President is vulnerable as he must push his Senate slate to sustain his program going forward for the remainder of his term.

Unlike Gloria, who cultivated the Catholic hierarchy during her incumbency, suborning the bishops with new Pajeros and SUVs, the Deegong never went this route. He was confrontational to the point of alienating the hierarchy. True, there is no proven solid Catholic vote despite 80 percent of the populace labeling themselves as nominal Catholics. Past elections, however, show the Catholics fragmented. Other churches fared differently.

The century-old Iglesia ni Kristo that boasts a proven minimum of at least 2 million command votes (claiming up to 4 million), has always been perceived to have supported the winners in several presidential elections. Its track record in putting important candidates over the top has allowed it to insert INK members into every administration even up to cabinet level, placing the sect in positions of influence.

The INK was all out for DU30 in 2016, thus its members were awarded sinecures in the civilian and military bureaucracy. Even the Executive Minister, Eduardo Manalo, carries a DU30 appointment as special envoy for overseas Filipino concerns — whatever this means. Not too bad for a religious sect.

And this week marks the start of key local and national candidates making a beeline for the INK to “kiss the ring” of Eduardo Manalo. No candidate worth his salt will pass over the chance of being seen within the circle of this vicar. Whether the candidate is leading in the polls or at the tail end, everyone pays homage.

The INK has its own polling system, relying heavily on its extensive but secretive cultish membership. Particularly in the senatorial level, incumbents and neophytes must kowtow to Manalo. And the INK blesses those who are apparent winners; branded names showing good numbers and are ahead of the pack, thus the appearance of INK producing the eventual winners. It has perfected the art of anointing those with the highest probability of winning, perforce claiming ownership of victory. Those in the tail end will of course be discarded. There is no appeal. And the smart thing that INK has always done is to announce dramatically at the very last moment its choices to its flock that has proven time and again to vote on command.

Among the charismatic movements attached to the Catholic Church is the “El Shaddai,” in the forefront boasting a command vote of almost 2 million (or so it claims). This one is headed by a multi-millionaire real estate magnate, Brother Mike Velarde who started a small-time prayer radio program in the early 1980s. It currently claims a membership of 8 to 10 million worldwide and has tremendous political influence. It reportedly had a hand in putting Fidel V. Ramos into the presidency. This election will again see the spectacle of candidates praying on stage with Brother Mike with full tri-media coverage.

To a lesser degree is a Protestant denomination Jesus is Lord Church headed by Brother Eddie Villanueva. A rival of brother Mike, it claims a membership of 5 million with an undetermined command vote, but could be impressive as Villanueva’s son, Joel, was elected to the Senate in his first try in 2016, ranking second highest in the polls.

These religious groups are self-sufficient through the tithes and contribution of their members. The founders are all rich proving true the taunt that “religion is a lucrative business.” They are all Jesus-oriented and claim that certain truths have been revealed to their founders. INK, founded in 1913 by Felix Manalo, is now into its third generation of leadership — the Executive Ministers. Its main tenet is that INK is the one true church founded by Jesus but perverted by Christian churches over the centuries. All these churches claim to intercede for the faithful with their God, and therefore, they are the earthly instruments that merely mediate with the heavenly occupants. Except for one.

And this is the “Kingdom of Jesus Christ, The Name Above Every Name.” The difference between this sect is that the founder Apollo Quiboloy is “The Appointed Son of God.” In a video that went viral in social media, he proclaimed that he is the new Jesus chosen by God, claiming that he is the way, the truth and the life.

He claims ownership of everyone’s soul and the whole world “…ako ang may-ari ng kaluluwa niyo, ako and may-ari ng sanlibutan.” (I own your souls and I own the world). And the clencher, “…no one enter the gates of heaven without his forgiveness and redemption.”

This charismatic preacher came into national prominence when he was revealed to be the spiritual adviser of the then Mayor of Davao and his financial backer for his many mayoral campaigns. And he burst into public consciousness when he stood on the same stage as the presidential candidate during DU30 “miting de avance” when he parlayed his opening prayer into a rambling speech puffing up his role. He regaled the audience with stories of granting free use of his helicopter and plane for the Deegong’s sorties. What was galling was his attempt to overshadow the candidate by revealing that “he had this dream, that the mayor will one day be President” — boasting that he was the first to persuade him to run. And to top it all, he was willing to put in P1 billion or even P2 billion for the presidential campaign. Television audiences all over the country couldn’t help but notice the Deegong squirming in his chair — totally embarrassed by this religious charlatan-billionaire. And his claims of vast wealth could be true as the international Archlight Media estimated his worth at about $160 million (P8.64 billion).

By now, this “appointed son of God” may have been demoted from his lofty perch as the President’s spiritual advisor. The Deegong needs no earthly intercession with heaven. He doesn’t even believe in heaven.

What is required of him is to fulfill what he promised the Filipinos when he ran as a maverick — a real pagbabago! And if he pulls it off, the Deegong will be revered by his countrymen much better than any religious charlatan.

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