By Catherine S. Valente | The Manila Times
THE camp of former senator Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr. called anew for national unity after Catholic charismatic group El Shaddai endorsed the presidential candidate and his running mate, Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio, for the upcoming national elections.
The endorsement of El Shaddai, led by Bro. Mike Velarde, was given to the Marcos-Duterte tandem after they attended an event at the El Shaddai International House of Prayer in Parañaque City on Saturday.
Marcos' spokesman Victor Rodriguez described El Shaddai's move as "another testament that the call to liberate the Filipino people from the fetters of disunity gets stronger by the day."
"We extend our brotherly embrace to Bro. Mike Velarde and his congregation. Truly, the time has come for all to be of one desire, and that is, to hurdle the pandemic, and rise, as one nation, together with other nations, towards the road of recovery, even progress," Rodriguez said in a statement sent to The Manila Times.
"We welcome everyone in this movement for national unity, even those who have different political leanings and beliefs, even our very critics, for only in the act of joining hands we may triumph over all challenges we face today and on the road ahead," he added.
Photos shared by the Partido Lakas-Christian Muslim Democrats (Lakas-CMD) showed Velarde raising the hands of Marcos Jand Duterte-Carpio during the group's religious event.
The charismatic group supported the candidacy of Marcos for vice president in 2016 but he lost to Maria Leonor "Leni" Robredo, who is also now running for president.
In a chance interview after the El Shaddai event, Marcos said he was "very grateful" for the endorsement.
"We are always very grateful to Brother Mike for all of his support and his help through the years," he said. "It's not surprising because, like I said, his is a message of love, while ours is a message of unity. [They] work very well together."
For her part, Duterte-Carpio, daughter of President Rodrigo Duterte, thanked the religious group for its support.
"Maraming salamat po Brother Mike Velarde at sa milyun-milyong kasapi ng El Shaddai. Ang inyong suporta sa aking kandidatura pagka-bise presidente ng Pilipinas ay isang malaking tulong sa aking pangarap at mga gustong isulong kapag ako ay nahalal kasama ang ating presidential candidate--si Apo Bongbong Marcos (Thank you, Brother Mike Velarde, and to the millions of members of El Shaddai. Your support for my candidacy for vice president will be a great help to my dreams and plans if I get elected along with our presidential candidate, Apo Bongbong Marcos)," Duterte-Carpio said.
"Alam ko na ang pagkakaisa ay isang bagay na pamilyar at malapit po sa puso ng mga kasapi ng El Shaddai. Kasama ang pananampalataya sa Diyos, ang pagkakaisa ang dahilan bakit malakas at lumalakas po ang inyong samahan (I know that unity is something that is familiar and close to the hearts of the members of El Shaddai. Along with faith in God, unity is the reason why your organization is strong and growing)," she added.
Apart from Marcos and Duterte-Caprio, El Shaddai also announced its support for senatorial candidates, former Philippine National Police chief Guillermo Eleazar and former Public Works secretary Mark Villar.
Velarde said he would endorse up to 14 senatorial candidates.
The 90-day campaign period for candidates for national positions officially started on Tuesday.