MANILA, MAY 4, 2007 (STAR) Members of the opposition on Friday criticized the Arroyo administration for the attack on the family of evangelist Eduardo "Bro. Eddie" Villanueva, founder of the Jesus Is Lord (JIL) movement and a staunch critic of the President.

Jon-Jon Villanueva, the son 'Bro. Eddie,' was involved in a shoot-out in Bulacan Thursday night between his supporters and government troops after the latter were discovered tearing down campaign posters of the CIBAC (Citizens Battle Against Corruption) in Bulacan.

The Genuine Opposition (GO) condemned in the strongest possible terms the attack, "Lawlessness and wantonness of those in power have become hallmarks of the current administration and its supporters. Why were military men destroying the posters of the CIBAC Party-list, particularly, right after Bro. Eddie Villanueva endorsed a number of opposition Senatorial candidates?"

"This is political harassment pure and simple," GO Spokesman Atty. Adel Tamano stated.

Tamano added that, "the fact that it was members of the military using a government vehicle who were involved in the attack makes this sad episode all the more chilling."

Meanwhile, Bayan Muna partylist Representative Satur Ocampo denounced the military over the assault, "The military, through Col. Gerald Gomez, has admitted that they were his soldiers but claims that they had come from a pursuit of New People’s Army rebels. If so, why were they in civilian clothes?"

"Bayan Muna condemns this military attack on the Villanueva family. This may be due to his support for oppositionist candidates in the forthcoming elections," Ocampo said.

Ocampo notes a report that the soldiers who attacked the Villanueva compound were seen earlier putting up posters of retired Gen. Jovito Palparan’s partylist group, while removing those of CIBAC, an oppositionist partylist led by Rep. Joel Villanueva, youngest son of the influential religious leader.

Another Bayan Muna solon, Rep. Teddy Casiño also said that the incident proves that Palparan's partylist is "sponsored and supported by the AFP-- and thus-- must be disqualified."

Sarah Dematera expresses concern, prays for FG's recovery

(Office of the PRess Secretary, Malacanang) May 4, 2007 - Overseas Filipino worker (OFW) Sarah Dematera, who was freed from a Saudi Arabian prison last Wednesday, expressed concern and offered prayers for the speedy and complete recovery of First Gentleman Jose Miguel T. Arroyo.

In a phone conversation with President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo yesterday, Dematera, who is still in Saudi Arabia, asked the President about the health condition of the First Gentleman.

"Si First Gentleman, kumusta na po siya?" (How is the First Gentleman?), Dematera asked the President.

"Eto, katabi ko ngayon at masayang-masaya rin siya" (He is beside me now and is also very glad), President Arroyo replied.

The First Gentleman, who is also a known advocate of the welfare of OFWs, had caught the attention of Dematera after undergoing a risky heart surgery last month.

In the same phone call, Dematera said she had been offering prayers for the speedy recovery of the President’s husband even while she was in prison in Saudi Arabia.

Dematera was freed after 15 years of incarceration. She was meted the capital punishment for the death of her lady employer in the oil-rich kingdom in 1992.

Dematera also expressed her deep gratitude to President Arroyo. "Mabuti po ang kalagayan ko dito at maraming salamat po sa inyo" (A am alright, Mrs. President, and I would like to thank you), Dematera said.

The President told Dematera that her freedom, together with the release of the other undocumented and jailed OFWs in Saudi Arabia, was one of the favors she personally asked from Prince Mohammad Bin Abdulaziz Al Saud during her state visit to Saudi Arabia last year.

Dematera also told the President that she is very thankful for the efforts of Foreign Affairs Secretary Alberto Romulo, Labor Secretary Arturo Brion, and the Philippine embassy officials led by Ambassador Tony Villamor.

The freed convict said she is also grateful to Prince Mohammad. However, she just asked the President to be the one to relay her message of thanks to him.

President Arroyo said she plans to personally thank Prince Mohammad in her future visit to Saudi Arabia.

The President also asked Dematera on her feelings after being released from prison. She replied, "Masaya ako dahil sa wakas makikita ko na ang pamilya ko," (I am very happy…I will be able to see my family at last!)

Dematera is expected to arrive in Manila on Monday, May 7, after her documents at the embassy have been processed.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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