The Preacher's vow

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By Thea Alberto, Yahoo! Southeast Asia

He is known as being the most ‘un-politicized’ of all the presidential candidates, but evangelist and Jesus is Lord Founder Eduardo ‘Brother Eddie’ Villanueva is no stranger to politics.

Brother Eddie’s first try at the polls was in 2004, a year marked by supposed election fraud. Villanueva ran, but lost to President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. Failure, however, did not deter the religious leader.

“This is a call of duty. I used to say that even if I were offered millions of money to run, I won’t. But this is a call of duty. If not only for the plan of God for this country, I wouldn’t run,” Villanueva tells Yahoo! Southeast Asia in a two-hour interview.

Calm and straightforward, Villanueva answered questions articulately—in a manner any good preacher would do to influence his followers.

And influence, he truly has. Before plunging into politics, it was Villanueva who was being wooed by his would-be opponents for support. After all, his church, JIL, has over thousands of members worldwide, an active presence online, and they even have their own local television network—a feat hard to achieve in a dominantly-Catholic country.

The preacher’s vow

Leading the (Bangon Pilipinas) [Rise Philippines] Movement, Villanueva promises a corrupt-free term should he become president. After all, he’s the candidate perceived by many as the one who fears sin.

“No one is above the law once Eddie Villanueva [is president].For the first time in history, the general rule of law will happen,” the preacher-leader vows.

Villanueva even boasted of a Philippines “never seen before” should his party emerge victorious.

Photo by Associated PressVillanueva says he’s best fitted for the job because he does not have any purpose but to lead the country back to order, through his 7 E’s. That is to: Emancipate the people; Empower the people; Educate the people; Elevate the living standards of the people; Energize the economy; Eradicate bad governance, including corruption; and Establish peace in the land.

“I will overhaul the justice system and I will begin to implement the National Transparency and Accountability Policy from the very Office of the President. We will show the people, seriously, a kind of righteous leadership by example: No corruption,” Villanueva guarantees.

And while all these seem easier said than done, Villanueva believes he has enough willpower to push these visions into reality.

“I am not beholden to any political power, to any business economic power, to any religious power, to any foreign bases power. We are only beholden to God and to the Filipino people,” said Villanueva.

Pastor’s journey

Once a student activist, Villanueva said he never thought he would become a preacher. He even claims that he was once an atheist. However, Villanueva said he eventually saw the light.

“God is not a dictator. If you want to go to hell, God cannot stop you. So my principle is respect,” the preacher said.

“I cannot tolerate any form of corruption and immorality in life,” the preacher says of his life now.

Married to Adoracion "Dory" Villanueva and with four kids, including Cibac Party-list Representative Joel Villanueva, the preacher says fatherhood gave him extreme joy. He’s also a doting grandpa to his grandchildren, mostly living in the U.S.

Photo by Associated PressWhen not busy with his pastor duties, Villanueva says he makes time to be with his family.

“I’m practical and mahal na mahal ko ang aking pamilya,” he says. However, Villanueva says he knows his priorities start with God.

“My loyalty to my family, to my friends, to my party ends when my loyalty to my God and to my country begins,” he added.

The 63-year-old pastor says he is also fond of technology and he even became a text messaging addict.

And despite his dismal ranking in surveys, Villanueva believes God will help him ‘save’ the Philippines by winning the 2010 elections.

“That’s why our political will, I can say, modesty aside, is beyond measure. We are in the position to really implement the genuine changes and reforms which are much-delayed for the last forty years,” said Villanueva.