Preacher’s b’day bash draws endorsement-hungry pols

Quiboloy, the self-styled "God's appointed Son," drew candidates from Team Unity, Genuine Opposition and Mayor Rodrigo Duterte’s Hugpong who sought the endorsement of the religious leader.

The leader of the Jesus Christ the Name Above Every Name Christian group told reporters the party’s guest list is a preview of candidates he would endorse. He said he will release the names of these candidates on May 6.

Quiboloy said his endorsement commands a bloc vote. He said the Kingdom citizens, as he calls his members, follow his choice of candidates during elections.

"I do not impose on them. They entrust to me of the choice of candidates. I consult them but they leave to me the final decision," he said.

In a statement, the group claimed a membership of “more than three million” nationwide and in 29 countries. But it did not say how many of its members are registered voters.

Dubbed "Sonshine Across the Land," the party was held in Quiboloy's posh headquarters called "prayer mountain" in Tamayong, an upland village in Calinan around 60 kilometers southwest of Davao City.

A televangelist since 1991, Quiboloy had been endorsing national and local candidates in the last few elections, including aspiring party-list groups, said JR Narit of Manila-based radio station DZAR Sonshine Radio.

He said the pastor supported winning candidates and he favored those who are with the sitting President.

Narit said Quiboloy backed Bayan Muna in 2004 but not anymore in these elections. "Upon knowing that its nominees were leftist leaders, he has indicated he is no longer endorsing Bayan Muna," he said.

Sorsogon Rep. Francis Escudero of the GO flew in by helicopter and had lunch with Quiboloy in time for a feeding program for around 5,000 children each accompanied by a parent.

Sources inside the compound said the children were brought in batches via school buses from the Jose Maria College, which is owned by the religious group.

Senate President Manuel Villar arrived at 7p.m., 30 minutes ahead of former senator Loren Legarda. Both of them said they just came in to greet Quiboloy.

Senator Ralph Recto admitted he really came to seek the pastor's endorsement. He came in around 6:30p.m. and left after an hour.

The ruling local party canceled a rally for the party that night, said Councilor Peter Laviña.

Duterte and running mate daughter Sara arrived minutes after Hugpong bets for councilors arrived in a convoy.

Laviña said that only two members of the city council, Mabel Acosta and Bonifacio Militar, were absent.

Asked if they were seeking Quiboloy’s endorsement, Councilor Leo Avila III told reporters "everybody's endorsement is important."

Councilor Jimmy Dureza was also present. He is running as Second District representative against re-electionist Rep. Vincent Garcia, a Duterte ally.

But Councilor Rene Elias Lopez, who is running against Isidro Ungab, Duterte's bet for congressman in the third district, was not around.

Re-electionist House Majority Floor Leader Prospero Nograles was also not around. 

Quiboloy told reporters he will endorse whoever is in Duterte's slate.

Reporters asked Vice Mayor if Luis Bonguyan whether there was nothing wrong in the almost complete attendance of councilors in the preacher’s birthday bash amid reports that the passing of salient ordinances like the City Shelter Code were delayed due to problems with quorum.

Bonguyan said that they managed to obtain quorums but that it was difficult to continue with the sessions in the afternoons as the councilors would then be turning their attention to their campaign.

Buffet dinner was served around 7 p.m. as an ensemble played music, and children performed rondalla and violin pieces for around 200 guests inside a classy hotel-like dining hall, on the second floor of the golf club building called Martha's Vineyard.

But thousands also ate dinner al fresco along the compound’s well-landscaped pathways. A widescreen put up outside flashed scenes from inside and outside of Martha's Vineyard.

Even businessmen, military officials, and families of some candidates were in the party.

As the dinner was about to end, Mayor Duterte sang Louie Ocampo's Ikaw and Visayan ballad Matud Nila as his gift to Quiboloy.

"Thank you for being a friend to me and for being a pastor to all of us," Duterte told the preacher before trying his number.

Legarda then sang “I won't Last a day without you" giving in to Duterte's request for a response.

After two violinists and a flutist performed Frank Sinatra's Star Dust, Quiboloy delivered a message invoking his wish for unity among Filipinos and thanking God and the presence of Duterte. He said he has dedicated his birthdays to children as the future of the country, citing the nationwide feeding program earlier in the day.

As the party was wrapping up, Ilocos Sur Gov. Chavit Singson arrived by 10:30p.m., 30 minutes ahead of Surigao del Sur Rep. Prospero Pichay.

Quiboloy said he will make known his endorsement eight days before polling day and that it will be a mix of TU, GO and independent bets. It will be either be an 8-2-2 or a 7-3-2 in favor of TU, he said. (Walter I. Balane/MindaNews)