MANILA, March 19, 2004  (STAR) By Jose Aravilla - The battle of the two Eddies gunning for the presidency heats up as the disqualification suit against evangelist Eddie Villanueva filed by businessman Eddie Gil gets going at the Commission on Elections (Comelec).

Manny Santos, executive vice president of Gilís Partido Isang Bansa, Isang Diwa (PIBID), said the case has been raffled off to the Comelec first division although no hearing has yet been set. The disqualification suit was filed some two weeks ago.

Earlier, the Comelec second division ruled to disqualify Gil on the petition of Villanueva declaring the businessman a nuisance candidate out to mock the May 10 elections since he is incapable of launching a nationwide campaign. Gil said he will file a motion for reconsideration.

An enraged Gil also vowed to get back at Villanueva and expressed his disgust at the members of the Comelec second division. Gil had announced that he would soon file a disqualification case against Villanueva, founder of the Jesus is Lord fellowship movement, which he branded as a "cult."

But according to Santos, their counter-offensive against Villanueva was already launched earlier this month.

"Our case against Villanueva is on the ground of misrepresentation and violation of the Omnibus Election Code on illegal campaigning," Santos said.

He explained that Villanueva misrepresented himself when he claimed to be the standard-bearer of the Bangon Pilipinas party, when in fact the group had yet to be accredited by Comelec at the time the evangelist filed his certificate of candidacy last Dec. 29.

The PIBID official said Villanueva also violated election rules when he published an advertisement last Jan. 21 warning the public on the confusion that may arise from Gilís candidacy, at the same time alleging Gil was facing several criminal cases.

Santos said it is against Comelec rules to campaign for or against any other candidate before the start of the campaign period, which started Feb. 10.

Part of Villanuevaís arguments in seeking the disqualification of Gil is the possible confusion of having two Eddies running for the same post in the elections. The evangelist expressed fear votes marked "Eddie" would be counted for the businessman rather than for him.

Villanueva is using "Bro. Eddie" as his alternative name.

The disqualification case is the second to be filed against Villanueva, who has sought additional security following his successful bid to have Gil disqualified.

A disqualification case against the evangelist based on the principle of church and state was earlier dismissed by the Comelec.

Representing Gil in the latest disqualification case filed against Villanueva is former Misamis Oriental judge Diego Palomares.

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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