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What, us political? Philippine rally says it's about religion

February 28, 2012 |  7:53 pm

Iglesia ni Cristo rally in Manila

Every day on World Now, we choose a remarkable photo from somewhere on the globe. Today we picked this shot from Manila, in which churchgoers are holding a massive rally, shading themselves with colorful umbrellas.

Organizers of the huge rally for the Christian sect Iglesia ni Cristo say it was “purely religious” and not political, the Associated Press reports. Philippine politicians weren't allowed to speak at the event.

But the church has nonetheless played a political role in the Philippines. Its members have backed Supreme Court Chief Justice Renato Corona, who is facing a Senate impeachment trial as part of a campaign against corruption by President Benigno Aquino III.

Though the church rally Tuesday was ostensibly religious, a church insider told the Philippine Daily Inquirer that it was also a “show of force to deliver a strong message” to Aquino on the case against Corona, who reportedly has some indirect ties to the church.

Aquino has made combating corruption the center of his presidency, campaigning under the slogan “If there’s no corruption, there’s no poverty.” He backed the recent prosecution of former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, who pleaded not guilty to charges of electoral fraud last week.

The Economist criticized Aquino's approach to fighting corruption last year, saying his tack was "to punish the sins of the past rather than try to prevent crimes in future." Presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda argues that Aquino has made "great strides ... in curbing corruption, fighting poverty and promoting good governance," the Philippine Star reported last month.

The Christian sect that hosted the rally, which boasts 3 million people, is one of a handful of religious groups courted by Philippine politicians for its electoral clout, Agence France-Presse reported. Police estimated that 600,000 people attended the rally.


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-- Emily Alpert in Los Angeles

Photo: Hundreds of thousands of devotees of the Christian sect Iglesia ni Cristo gather at Rizal Park in Manila on Tuesday. Credit: Bullit Marquez / Associated Press