Is there really a Mike Velarde vote factor?
AS I WRECK THIS CHAIR By William M. Esposo
The Philippine Star 2007-05-10
Unless my eyes were playing tricks on me, Mike Velarde’s Saturday Night crowd has become noticeably thinner and a far cry from the original Luneta crowd which once filled the grounds opposite the Quirino Grandstand. Of course, I’m hardly surprised to see this phenomenon of diminishing crowds in a gathering that centers on the personality of Mike Velarde.

By projecting himself as an extension of the Catholic Church, Velarde had also drawn the boundaries that define his limitations. He must abide and act according to criteria acceptable to the Catholic faithful.

This is not the case with the Iglesia ni Cristo (INC) which differentiates itself from the other more prevalent Christian and Protestant Christian groups in the country. Unlike the Greek Orthodox, Roman Catholic, Methodist, Lutheran and other Protestant belief systems, the INC does not believe that Jesus Christ is both God and man.

In those times when Velarde had attempted to test his limits, he found himself at loggerheads with the Catholic Church. His motives and actions become most questionable whenever he involved himself in politics and with politicians. I am not even raising the oft-repeated question about the accounting of contributions made to the El Shaddai by its mostly poor members.

The Catholic Church wisely refrains from endorsing candidates and instead confines itself to identifying moral issues and providing guidance to its flock. But Velarde plunges into political matters and even endorses candidates. Perhaps he fancies himself a modern day Cardinal Richelieu.

Indulging in our dirty politics was Velarde’s biggest mistake. Now perceived as a power broker rather than an evangelist, he wades with dirty politicians in the same pool of filth and grime of dirty politics. There was even a time when Velarde was believed to be eyeing the presidency as what Eddie Villanueva of Jesus is Lord had done in 2004.

Velarde was known to have supported Joseph Estrada, a discredited president who was ousted by People Power. How could someone purporting to be a man of God support a man like Estrada who flaunted his many wives and out-of-wedlock liaisons?

Now, people see Velarde thumping for Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo despite people’s doubts about her legitimacy to rule and after having led the country through its deterioration as the Most Corrupt country in Asia and the Most Dangerous Place for journalists and activists in a non-war zone.

If many of the El Shaddai followers have ceased patronizing the Velarde Saturday Night Extravaganza, then how come there are still so many politicians seeking his endorsement? How come indeed when even the reliable SWS (Social Weather Stations) had already debunked the myth of the so-called El Shaddai vote based on its findings on voting trends of religious groupings in the 1998 elections?

In 1998, SWS reported "that the only significant religious votes were those of Iglesia ni Cristo members, who went 81% for Erap, and Muslims, who gave him 63%. The Charismatics who truly supported Erap were Jesus Is Lord (JIL) who gave him 52%, whereas El Shaddai only gave him 39%, the same as the national average."

For all his grandstanding and perorations, Mike Velarde does not add votes to the candidates he endorses. Since El Shaddai votes recorded the same 39% average as the general Catholic votes in 1998, it can be concluded that the El Shaddai influence does not in itself create a dent in the overall outcome. Another gauge of El Shaddai vote power is the fact that they’ve managed to elect only one Party-List Representative (Buhay).

The way I see it, Velarde is regarded by the El Shaddai flock as some kind of an entertaining minister who can help them laugh at their woes while seeking moral guidance and divine favors, sometimes by way of an inverted umbrella. Like the typical Catholic voter, the El Shaddai members do not recognize Velarde as their political adviser, otherwise they’d have voted like the INC.

Catholic voters have a long tradition of practicing separation of Church and State. Since El Shaddai is part of the Catholic flock, its members naturally maintain their independent choices when they vote. By presuming that he can suggest who El Shaddai members should vote for, Velarde is violating Catholic tradition.

We cannot help but doubt the moral character of politicians who still opt to genuflect before Velarde, in a manner of speaking, when the 1998 SWS survey had clearly established that Velarde’s endorsement adds nothing to the national pattern of voting. It leads us to wonder what other terrible things these politicians can do once they have ascertained that somebody can actually deliver victory in the polls.

Are you surprised that some people are allowed to get away with massive tax evasion and others are awarded plum business concessions when these same people happen to be the financiers who underwrite the high cost of politics in our country?

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