Despite risk of expulsion, Iglesia ni Cristo members openly defy church leaders’ endorsement of Bongbong Marcos-Sara Duterte tandem

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Come election season, news reports of candidates meeting with church leaders of the Iglesia ni Cristo (INC; Filipino for Church of Christ), an independent Christian church with some 2.6 million members, are a common fixture. With an active membership base and a doctrine that, among other things, emphasizes strict obedience to church leaders on matters such as which politicians to vote for, those aspiring to be elected to the country’s highest posts are known to woo the INC’s officials for its endorsement to secure the church’s highly coveted bloc vote.

For members of the religious sect, it’s simple. Bloc voting represents unity, an important facet of INC’s teachings. Submitting to the will of their church leaders is tantamount to following God’s will. Members who vocally oppose the decision may be reported to church authorities and are subject to sanctions, including expulsion from the church.

But when the Iglesia ni Cristo announced their formal endorsement of former senator Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. and Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte for the presidential and vice-presidential seats last night, several members of the church spoke up to openly defy the church’s long-held voting practice.

READ: #MarcosDuwag trends again after Marcos camp declines Robredo’s debate challenge

On Twitter, the hashtag #KakampINC, a play on the word Kakampink that has been used to describe supporters of Vice President Leni Robredo and running mate Senator Kiko Pangilinan, trended as members of the religious group voiced their opposition to their leaders’ endorsement and called it counter to biblical teachings.

“I am an active member of Iglesia ni Cristo but I will never vote for those on (the church’s) list. I’d rather get expelled than vote for a thief,” user akarinaihara wrote.

Another member, who introduced herself as a handog (a term used to describe members born into the religion), and a former member of the church choir, also spoke up on her decision to vote for the Leni-Kiko tandem instead of her church’s endorsement.

Ikalulugod ito ng Diyos, kapatid (The Lord will welcome this, brethren),” she wrote.

While the Iglesia bloc vote is certainly considered to be a significant boost in the polls, it has not reliably dictated the election’s winners. In 2016, the church also endorsed Marcos Jr. for the vice presidency but he eventually lost to Robredo.

Founded in 1913 by Felix Manalo, a former Protestant, the Iglesia ni Cristo describes itself as the “one true church”, believing Manalo to be God’s last true messenger and that all other churches are apostate. Membership in the church grew by 200 percent after World War II, converting mostly Roman Catholics in Metro Manila and the Central Luzon region.

READ: Upper-class uproar: Marcos and Robredo supporters engage in a chant showdown in posh Power Plant Mall

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