By Karlos Manlupig, VERA Files
It was not only in Manila that the Iglesia ni Cristo made a show of force last Feb. 28.
In Davao City, thousands of INC members traveled for hours, some of them suffered blown out tires to attend a prayer rally that was part of the religious group's nationwide grand evangelical mission.
They filled the Agro Soccer Field, which had a crowd capacity of 100,000 persons. Under the heat of the sun, they participated in the "Bible Exposition" and stayed put even when there was a sudden downpour.
A farmer from Mati City, Davao Oriental, who asked not to be named, said that as members of the real Church of Christ, they would do anything and follow every command of their leaders in Manila.
"We are always taught that we are one under the Iglesia ni Cristo. The Bible says that that we should unite with the true church of Christ and follow God's commandments," he said.
A former member of the Roman Catholic Church and now a member of Iglesia ni Cristo for more than two decades, Abelino Beraque said that he will always remain loyal to this church because he believes that this is the only way to salvation.
"Nothing pushed me to be converted to INC. I was enlightened after I read a particular passage in the Bible that says that only members of Iglesia ni Cristo will be saved. No member of other religions will be saved. Only the followers of the real Church of Christ will have salvation," said Beraque.
Just like the Rizal Park INC rally in Manila that caused traffic jams and shortage of buses, the Davao City rally also left many commuters stranded as traffic came to a halt caused by trucks and buses that brought INC members from neighboring towns and provinces to the event.
Rey, a student from Ateneo de Davao University, said the 15-minute ride from his residence to school became one hour." I do not blame the INC for the traffic but the Traffic Management Council should have provided alternative routes," he said.
Joy Villanueva, who regularly takes the one-hour bus ride from Panabo City to Davao City, said the bus shortage resulted in jam-packed buses. " A seat that has a seating capacity of two persons became a seat for three persons. I wish that I was able to anticipate the effects of the INC mobilization so that I was able to travel earlier to avoid the unnecessary hassles," she said.
Rally marshals and the local police had a hard time controlling the crowd rushing out of the stadium after the rally. Some children were reported missing while there people who fainted and were rushed out in stretchers.
A few days before the event, they were speculations that it would be an INC political statement on the impeachment of Supreme Court Justice Renato Corona, which the INC denied asserting that the gathering, held all over the country, is a religious activity.
The INC, which was founded in the Philippines by Felix Manalo on 1914, started with only a small number of members in Punta, Santa Ana, Manila. By the 80's, the sect had grown to more than one million spread over 67 countries across the globe.
Today, Eduardo Manalo, the founder's grandson, Eduardo Manalo, presides over more than three million loyal followers which is said to vote as a bloc during elections.
Politicians court the INC votes which a survey firm has put to at least one million.
(VERA Files is put out by veteran journalists taking a deeper look at current issues. Vera is Latin for "true.")