So what exactly does clogging an entire major thoroughfare for hours in a megalopolis already choked by normal traffic volume supposed to achieve? According to the Iglesia ni Cristo (INC), it organised a “charity walk” along Manila’s Roxas Boulevard (formerly known as Dewey Boulevard) to raise funds for the victims of Typhoon Haiyan (a.k.a. Yolanda).Hundreds of thousands of INC members bought shirts for Php250 (about USD5.00) and took to the iconic waterfront thoroughfare today supposedly for the benefit of the hundreds of thousands of residents of Leyte and other central-Philippine provinces hit by the super-typhoon in November last year. The event snarled traffic all over Metro Manila. Estimates of the cost in lost productivity to the Philippine economy caused by the city’s infamous routinely turtle-paced traffic amount to the billions. If a proper accounting of the fiscal contribution of this event vis-à-vis its negative impact to the value of commercial activity on a Saturday in Metro Manila, the result would very likely be in the red.
The INC is known for its tight hold on the will of its members. Members are obligated to fork over a certain percentage of their personal income in the form of tithes. And it is likely that INC officials can quite easily exact additional tithes from its members on top of this for “special projects” without having to resort to organising stunts like this. Indeed, the event is making headline news on account of it possibly setting a Guinness World Record for “the most number of participants in a charity walk.”
As such, observers are abuzz with speculations on a possible political agenda behind this event. Because of its vast membership and its renowned ability to control the voting behaviour of this flock, politicians from all walks and parties stumble over one another to pander to the whims of INC top honchos. Suffice to say, the INC has always been a force to reckon when it comes to mobilising blocs of compliant voters and activists to support political positions and agendas decreed by its leadership. Just about every one of the most controversial presidents who’ve ever ruled this sad nation had at one time or another found favour with an INC top honcho…
1986: The INC supports President Ferdinand Marcos over then leader of the “Opposition” Corazon Aquino (Noynoy Aquino’s mother).
1998: The INC supports Joseph “Erap” Estrada’s successful bid for the presidency.
2004: The INC endorses Gloria Macapagal Arroyo in her campaign for President of the Philippines.
2010: The INC endorses Noynoy Aquino and Mar Roxas as future President and Vice President of the Philippines.
Like most of the major religions in the Philippines, the INC possesses immense wealth. Its temples’ towering spires loom over many parts of the Philippines, perhaps as a reminder to all of its vast power to influence Filipinos’ lives.
In an article marking a previous similarly disruptive event held by the INC in October 2013 which prompted many cities within Metro Manila to suspend classes, Paul Farol highlighted the specific qualities of the INC that make it a political force to reckon with…
1. Not only its size but the quality of its membership and its cohesiveness as a group.
2. The INC owns the highest rating (BAR NONE) radio and TV network, which is an essential tool for mobilization and coordination.
3. […] its members are well placed throughout the government.
Perhaps what the real agenda of this “charity” event really is will be revealed at some point. For now, as always, we shall defer to the very relevant advise of our favourite kapamilya media outlet:
Abangan ang susunod na kabanata…[Photo courtesy Yahoo! News.]
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