BOCAUE, BULACAN,  May 11, 2004
By James Mananghaya and Edu Punay  —  Evangelist and Bangon Pilipinas Movement (BPM) presidential candidate Eddie Villanueva promised the "rebirth" of the nation as he cast his vote at the Bunlo Elementary School here at 9 a.m. yesterday.

Villanueva, known to his flock as "Brother Eddie," arrived at polling precinct 121-A with his wife, Dory, and his son Joel, who is the party-list nominee of the Citizens’ Battle Against Corruption (CIBAC).

They were greeted at the school gate by their supporters, who expressed confidence Villanueva would win the presidential race.

"This is the rebirth of the nation. Babangon ang Pilipinas (The Philippines will rise)," Villanueva said.

The televangelist reportedly gained the attention of United States intelligence agents after he mustered a crowd of over three million people in a recent rally in Makati City.

He has called on all presidential candidates to join hands in protecting their votes and the votes of the people.

"It is upon this that the future of our children and our children’s children depends, so we must be vigilant for there to be honest, clean, peaceful and credible elections," he said in Filipino.

Villanueva said he is confident, considering the millions who attended his Makati City rally, that he will win the elections, adding that "this is why we do not believe in the surveys of the two companies that are usually commissioned by political parties here — because the more than three million human bodies (at my rally) can indicate the real results of the survey."

The BPM and Villanueva also made a last-minute endorsement of the candidacies of Alyansa ng Pag-asa vice-presidential bet Hermie Aquino and seven senatorial candidates from different parties, a BPM insider told The STAR.

In sample ballots distributed to members of the Jesus is Lord Church Worldwide and other born-again Christian churches during Sunday services, Villanueva and Aquino were endorsed by BPM officials.

The senatorial candidates endorsed in the same sample ballots were Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) Gov. Parouk "Doc" Hussin and re-electionist Sen. Rodolfo Biazon of the Koalisyon ng Katapatan at Karanasan para sa Kinabukasan (K-4), Koalisyon ng Nagkakaisang Pilipino (KNP) bets Salvador Escudero III and Sen. Aquilino Pimentel Jr., Carlos Padilla, the lone senatorial candidate fielded by independent presidential candidate Sen. Panfilo Lacson; Alyansa ng Pag-Asa’s Perfecto Yasay and independent candidate Heherson Alvarez.

According to the source, the list of candidates was a result of two months of screening by BPM officials led by a special panel.

The platforms of these candidates were considered, the insider said, adding that the screening committee used three standards: The capability to serve the public, competence and leadership ability and integrity.

Villanueva earlier said BPM would not endorse candidates who do not seek their support or pass their standards. However, the source said most of the candidates on the BPM’s last-minute list did not seek the party’s endorsement.

BPM officials also specified that they would support candidates who are principled, have good track records and are not traditional politicians, the insider said.

The preacher has also made public his endorsement of Alvarez and Padilla and said BPM would no longer endorse any other candidates, though he was expected to endorse the party-list group CIBAC.

The sample ballots were distributed from Thursday to Saturday to leaders of different Christian churches that supported Villanueva. They were also handed to the Islamic leaders of Sulu who supported Villanueva.

BPM officials earlier claimed they have two million members nationwide, but said they could muster support from 14 million voters nationwide from fellow Christians.

Villanueva has also spoken out against bloc voting by religious groups in response to the reported endorsements by the Iglesia ni Cristo (INC) and the Catholic charismatic El Shaddai movement of President Arroyo.

In Meycauayan, Bulacan, voters who failed to locate their polling precincts caused a slight commotion at the Pandayan Elementary School.

The problem, sources said, was subsequently resolved as police and Commission on Elections (Comelec) personnel forecast a "generally peaceful" election that ended at 3 p.m.

As of 12:30, no violent incidents had been reported although there were minor complaints of mix-ups among polling precincts and names missing from voters’ lists.

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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