MANILA (Updated 9 a.m.) -- Iglesia Ni Cristo (INC) declared today support for Liberal Party (LP) presidential and vice presidential candidates.

Iglesia, one of the country's most influential religious groups, has officially released a statement Wednesday that they will support the candidacy of Senator Benigno "Noynoy" Aquino III and Senator Manuel "Mar" Roxas II as president and vice president respectively.

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In a statement, INC Executive Minister Eduardo Manalo said they deliberated on the issue before coming up with the list of candidates they will be supporting in the elections.

"Many important factors were taken into consideration in making our decision. After careful and prayerful deliberation, the Church believes that this is the best for our country," he said.

Aside from Aquino and Roxas, INC also endorsed senatorial candidates Juan Ponce Enrile, Ramon "Bong" Revilla Jr., Pilar Juliana "Pia" Cayetano, Miriam Defensor-Santiago, Jinggoy Estrada, Lito Lapid, Rozzano "Ruffy" Biazon, Teofisto Guingona III, Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr., Franklin Drilon, Ralph Recto, and Vicente "Tito" Sotto III.

However, he clarified that the ones they picked for the senatorial race does not necessarily mean the ones worthy of the position. Others whom they did not chose are as worthy of the ones they have chosen.

"This does not mean to say that the other candidates are not worthy of the said positions. We know they have the capability, the experience, and the welfare of our nation at heart. We have worked together with many of them in support of socio-civic programs and projects for the benefit of our fellow countrymen," Manalo explained.

He furthered, "Most of them are our friends who have been with us in times of celebration and sorrow, and they have respected our right and freedom to exercise our religion."

Manalo also urged the public to pray that the result of the elections will be respected by everyone, adding that they likewise join the nation in aspiring for clean, honest, and peaceful elections.

The INC has six million members. Unlike other religious groups, about 70 to 84 percent of its members follow the mandate of its leadership.

The INC is known for its bloc voting practice and this is the reason why politicians are wooing them to get its support.

In the last 1998, the group endorsed President Joseph Estrada, and it supported President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo in 2004.

Meanwhile, another religious group, El Shaddai with eight million members, is expected to announce on Saturday, May 8 the candidates they will be endorsing.

(FP/Sunnex)