MANILA, March 22, 2004  (STAR) By Jess Diaz - The shadow of disqualified presidential candidate Eddie Gil may be hounding his rival and nemesis, evangelist Eddie Villanueva.

On the Philippine Airlines flight to Manila from Cagayan de Oro City yesterday, the plane’s first officer, a certain Abella, blared on the aircraft’s public address system that "we are honored to have with us two presidential candidates."

"They are Sen. Ping (Panfilo) Lacson and Eddie Gil," he said, eliciting laughter from passengers, many of whom are members of the campaign staffs of Lacson and Villanueva and journalists covering the two.

The announcement was made shortly after takeoff. Seconds later, a plane crewmember rushed to the cockpit and handed a note to the first officer, who promptly corrected himself.

He said he was sorry and that the presidential hopeful named Eddie on the flight is Eddie (Eduardo) Villanueva, not Eddie Gil. His remarks drew a round of applause from passengers. He made a second correction minutes before touchdown at the Manila airport.

Although Lacson and Villanueva were on the same flight, they were seated apart and had a chance to exchange hellos only when broadcast journalists covering them brought them together for an interview.

Also on the flight was House Minority Leader Carlos Padilla, Lacson’s lone senatorial candidate.

Villanueva later told Padilla that he was adopting him as a common senatorial bet. The two are close friends, having studied and subsequently taught together at the Philippine College of Commerce (now Polytechnic University of the Philippines), where they were militant activists before martial law.

Cagayan de Oro is where Villanueva’s rival and his campaigners were detained briefly for failure to pay hotel expenses amounting to more than P50,000. Gil’s group later settled their bill.

The Commission on Elections has disqualified Gil, calling him a nuisance candidate and citing his failure to pay for hotel and restaurant bills as one of the grounds for his disqualification. It was Villanueva’s camp which intiated the move to disqualify Gil, since their being tocayo (same first names) might confuse voters.

Gil, who is seeking the presidency on a promise that he won’t use the national budget and would dip into his supposedly deep pocket for money to run the government, has appealed the case. He has also filed a counter-suit to disqualify Villanueva for alleged misrepresentation.

Lacson was in Northern Mindanao for four days, starting his sortie on Thursday morning.

Villanueva, on the other hand, spent just a day for his visit, making quick stops in Cagayan de Oro City and Valencia in nearby Bukidnon.

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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