MANILA, Philippines ? The preacher speaks.
His hands move. His fingers spread and point. His voice booms. He answers everything but the question, but he does it with panache. When he repeats himself, he repeats himself verbatim, entire paragraphs rolling out with teleprompter conviction.
His name is Eduardo Cruz Villanueva, 63, spiritual director and president of Jesus Is Lord (JIL) Church and chairman of the nationwide Philippines for Jesus Movement (PJM) and of the Zoe Broadcasting Network.
?And I?m running for the presidency of our beloved country.?
He has been an evangelist for 30 years. His mission is to bring people to the kingdom of God. He claims he does not know his net worth, because he believes in the word of God that ?we should invest in heaven rather than here on earth.?
He first ran for president in 2004. He says he refused at first. The powerful Jesus is Lord Church had long been courted by various political leaders. ?I?m not stupid to leave my comfort zone when the President of the Philippines, the Vice President, the Speaker of the House, and even almost all political leaders in this country used to come to our house just to be friendly to me.? When he decided to run, he said all he had was ?my passionate love for the country and the millions of people supporting us.?
He knows why he lost. He was cheated, he says. Unimpeachable sources tell him that he was neck and neck with the late Fernando Poe Jr. in the balloting.
Now he runs again, smiling in his commercials, shaking hands in Cebu, speaking of himself in the third person with the confidence of a British royal. The Eddie Villanueva administration ?will be free of unrighteousness and wickedness.?
He believes the failure of the Filipino people to elect a righteous leadership has led the country to a vicious cycle of traditional politics. The power of Malacańang behind a righteous leader is precisely what will change the nation. On his first day of office, he promises to sign a presidential declaration thanking God for his election.
?I?m not beholden to any political power. I?m not beholden to any business economic power, to any religious power, to any foreign-based interest.?
He brushes aside fears of religious biases.
?I have no religious biases. I have no religion; you may be surprised. I hate discrimination, as a full-blooded democrat.?
The full-blooded democrat says he believes in the Constitution??unless it contradicts God?s law.? He detests discrimination, he says, and generously allows that homosexuals are also loved by God. ?I have to really share with them the restoration of moral and righteous fibers of one?s existence.? All who have fallen into homosexuality ?need help.?
He cannot allow them ?to commit sexual offenses day and night? without warning them.
?They need sympathies. Not condemnation. They need proper guidance rather than ignore them. It is my duty to God. It is my duty to them. It?s my duty to the country.?
Brother Eddie believes in family planning. ?I believe that even God, when he created the entire universe?the entire earth, including the earth?it took him planning. So God himself is a God of planning. And therefore, we people, as rational beings, should learn how to plan.? He will support the RH (Reproductive Health) bill, he says, until he finds something in the Bible that bans the use of condoms. He believes the Mindanao insurgency must be dealt with. ?Mindanao has been a victim of injustices. That?s why Nur Misuari said the reason why he decided to run for governor in Sulu under our party is because, he said, he knows all these political leaders and ?only Brother Eddie is credible among them.??
Asked about his stand on the Visiting Forces Agreement, he hesitates, then answers in the broadest possible terms.
?As I have said many times, we will have a serious, comprehensive review of all treaties entered into by the Philippine government with and in view of improving the benefits for our country; and without sacrificing, of course, our diplomatic friendship with all countries of the world for mutual benefits based on mutual respect. What I?m saying is that, I will see to it that any treaty entered into should be improved if necessary and be amended if necessary just to maximize the benefits of our people and at the same time, without sacrificing the supremacy or dignity of the Filipino people before the eyes of international community of nations.?
Asked again, he says he supported the 1991 removal of bases. ?And now the V?a?what do we call this? Well, your question is the Visiting???
The question is repeated, ?Are you for or against the Visiting Forces Agreement??
?I?As I have said, once I?m the president, I will have an open mind to review it with absolute desire to maximize the benefits of the Filipino people.?
He is asked three more times. He wants to be serious in the review of all treaties. He wants to harness the brightest minds in the nation. No exceptions should be made when reviewing treaties. He is a man of God with the demeanor of a politician; it is still unknown where he stands on American presence in the Philippines.
The preacher stands at an odd place. He bows to God and Constitution, but only when the Constitution agrees with God. He claims no religious biases, and yet discriminates on the basis of his religion. He claims he is a democrat who shuns prejudice, and yet claims it his duty to the country to enlighten homosexuals of their sin. He announces his credentials?activist, academic, constitutionalist, professor?with the panache of a game show host, and yet is unable to form an opinion on the most contentious Philippine treaty, claiming he needs ?the nation?s brightest minds? to review the issue.
Many, he says, have often misconstrued the separation of Church and State. What it simply means is that the State is prohibited to establish a state religion and use public funds in promoting any particular religion. He is right in this. There is nothing stopping the religious lobby from shouting immorality at, say, Ang Ladlad?but there is everything in the law stopping the Commission on Elections from listening to those shouts. What Villanueva is unable to establish is his ability to discern secular from religious, Constitution from religion.
?I know in my heart?and my friends know me?I fear no one except God and sins, and therefore, I?m only beholden to God and to the Filipino people.?
When the voice of God disagrees with the voice of the people, it is clear to which sound the ear of the preacher is tuned.