MANILA,  April 28, 2004
By Edu Punay - Evangelist and Bangon Pilipinas Movement (BPM) standard-bearer Eduardo Villanueva is all set to bring his "Josiah’s army" to the country’s financial capital tomorrow to disprove surveys results showing him having the least supporters among the voting public.

At least 200,000 supporters of Villanueva from Metro Manila alone will be attending the rally dubbed as "Lantad Makati" in front of the statue of Benigno Aquino Jr. at Paseo de Roxas and Ayala Avenue in Makati City, organizers said.

The Commission on Elections, meanwhile, dismissed for the second time yesterday a petition to disqualify Villanueva for lack of merit.

The disqualification case was appealed to the poll body by the Advocates and Adherents of Social Justice for School Teachers and Allied Workers, which cited the constitutionally mandated separation of Church and State in seeking the disqualification of Villanueva.

The Comelec said the petitioners did not raise any new arguments in their appeal.

"Josiah’s Army" is a group of "born-again" Christian recruits who support Villanueva and his platform of righteous governance.

Heavy traffic is expected as Villanueva’s supporters will assemble at the Burgundy Corporate Tower at 11:30 a.m. before marching to rally venue, where he will deliver his speech.

The rally aims to "give justice" to Villanueva, who has been lagging in surveys behind four other presidential contenders, according to chief rally organizer Harry Limtong of the Task Force Pagbabago central committee.

"There is a big support for Bro. Eddie in Metro Manila alone and the surveys are hiding that," Limtong told the STAR in an interview.

Although there was an increase in Villanueva’s percentage points in the surveys of Social Weather Stations and Pulse Asia, he remains in last place among five candidates vying for the presidency on May 10.

Limtong said the rally was organized in response to what he called a huge clamor from their ranks to show the swelling of support for the 57-year-old founder and spiritual leader of the Jesus is Lord Movement (JIL). "As the banner of our rally says, we want to expose the real sentiments of people in Metro Manila," he said.

Limtong disclosed Villanueva’s supporters from the country’s business district, who have been contributing financially to his campaign, will come out in the open.

Villanueva earlier claimed surveys are rigged and meant to condition the minds of the people on who are supposedly leading in the presidential race.

The televangelist has cautioned the more than 40 million Filipino voters against putting faith on public opinion surveys, saying it might be used to justify cheating in the May 10 polls. He also threatened to expose the alleged "anomalies" in surveys, citing witnesses.

Opponents of President Arroyo have alleged that her camp has been "massaging" surveys to favor her. Recent public opinion polls show the President now leading her chief rival, opposition standard-bearer Fernando Poe Jr.

House Minority Leader Carlos Padilla, lone senatorial candidate of opposition presidential hopeful Sen. Panfilo Lacson, said that aside from the witnesses, Villanueva’s camp is documenting cases of manipulation and would soon present its own findings to the media.

SWS and Pulse Asia have denied massaging or changing in any way the results of their surveys.

But citing the Mindanao Interactive Online survey, Villanueva believes he will win in the May polls. Villanueva said that in the MIO survey, he has received a 66.7 percent rating as compared to Mrs. Arroyo’s 19 percent.

He said Poe, on the other hand, only has a rating of 5.3 percent, while former education secretary Raul Roco got 4.1 percent and Lacson 4.0 percent.

"Ito ang tunay na survey kumpara sa mga naglalabasang hindi kapani-paniwalang survey (This is the more credible survey compared to other unbelievable ones)," said Villanueva, who arrived yesterday at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) from a campaign sortie in General Santos City.

Organizers of Villanueva’s Makati rally vowed that the event would be manned well, saying traffic in the central business district will not be affected.

Limtong said a rally permit has already been secured from the Makati City Hall, which would deploy personnel from the Makati City Public Safety (MPSA) office to secure the rally area.

But a spokesman for Makati Mayor Jejomar Binay denied yesterday that they had already granted BPM’s request to hold a political rally tomorrow in the city’s central business district.

"It is not a unilateral decision. It involves many other people and I cannot yet answer if we would issue a permit, but we do not see any pre-existing condition that would warrant the rejection of a rally permit," Lito Anzures said.

He said BPM would have to go through consultations with the city’s public safety unit and parking authority, as well the local police before a permit is granted.

"Since it is already election time, there is reason to be extra careful," Anzures added, noting that even if Villanueva’s group is not likely to cause trouble, there is always the possibility of infiltrators.

Limtong however said, "This rally is not meant to disturb peace and order in the city. Bro. Eddie always wants us to abide by the law and we just want the people to know that there is an overflowing of support for him all over the country."

A larger rally, he said, will be held on May 8 at the Quirino Grandstand at Rizal Park, Manila where supporters of Villanueva nationwide are expected to come out in full force.

Some one million people flocked to the Quirino Grandstand in BPM’s grand rally in February, which according to rally organizers was proof that Villanueva is a strong contender in the presidential race. Villanueva has been JIL’s spiritual leader for the past 26 years. The movement has almost 7.1 million members in the Philippines alone. — With Jose Aravilla, Sandy Araneta, Evelyn Macairan

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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