University of the Philippines professor Randy David believes that President Rodrigo Duterte has virtually sealed a political pact with the bloc-voting Iglesia Ni Cristo a year before the elections by appointing Eduardo Manalo as “Special Envoy of the President for Overseas Filipino Concerns.”
David said the appointment was nothing but payback for Manalo who backed Duterte and losing vice presidential bet Bongbong Marcos in the 2016 elections.
He said the INC leader’s new post was a reaffirmation of his influence in his administration.
“Though seldom publicly brought up as an issue, the payoff for the INC usually comes in the form of appointments to government of individuals it endorses.The Duterte administration seems to take this game a notch higher. It has dropped all pretenses concerning the link between religion and politics. Short of actually establishing the INC as its official church, this administration makes no attempt to hide the fact that the Iglesia, which supported the President in the last elections, is its favored church. Both seem determined to keep this partnership strong and enduring,” said David in a column in the Philippine Daily Inquirer.
“I can’t imagine the president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines, or the head of its episcopal commission for overseas Filipino workers, accepting an appointment like this from a political leader. It would breach not just a legal line but also the boundary that protects the autonomy of religion from politics in the modern world,” he added.
David said a big concern in Manalo’s appointment was how the INC leader would avoid temptation to use government resources under his disposal to expand his church outside the Philippines.
“Mr. Manalo’s new role will no doubt involve frequent travels abroad, something he has been doing as INC head. While the position carries no compensation, it is hard to imagine that the job will not entail expenditure of public funds (which is not allowed to be spent for a sect),” said David.