Eduardo C. Villanueva: Revolution for righteousness leadership
By Dona Pazzibugan
Philippine Daily Inquirer
(Second of a series)
MANILA, Philippines—Politics and religion do not make a strange brew for presidential candidate Eduardo Cruz Villanueva, more popularly known as Brother Eddie.
A far stranger mix is his favorite meal: Carabao milk poured onto a plate of rice.
He was after all a radical activist and political economy professor during the turbulent Marcos years leading to martial law before he heeded his spiritual calling that led him to found the now far-reaching Jesus is Lord Church (JIL).
Hearing him talk, Villanueva is a man on a mission to foil “traditional politicians” and to save the country by reviving “genuine love for God and country.”
In his official campaign kickoff event last February, he introduced a new and more pragmatic slogan, “anim na taon na walang korapsyon (zero corruption for six years).”
That same month he flew to Hong Kong, where a thriving JIL chapter is based, and emotionally addressed the throngs of overseas Filipino workers who eagerly wanted to hear from their candidates.
“We are here to tell our OFWs that Bangon Pilipinas is declaring a revolution, a revolution for righteous leadership,” declared Villanueva, who reportedly became teary-eyed during his speech.
As president and spiritual leader of JIL, he endorsed a number of prominent political candidates including President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo in past elections before he himself decided to step into the political center stage and run for president in 2004.
Running for president the second time, Villanueva believes he and his party Bangon Pilipinas are now better prepared to go head on against “traditional politicians.”
Born on Oct. 6, 1946, Villanueva was the sixth of 11 children of a relatively well-to-do family in Bocaue, Bulacan, where he remains based until now.
His father Joaquin Villanueva was a soldier, elementary school teacher and sprinter who represented the Philippines in four consecutive Far East Games (precursor of the Asian Games) in the 1920s.
Owner of fishponds
His mother Maria Cruz-Villanueva owned a veil factory.
The family owned fishponds in Quezon and Bulacan and has small farmlands in Bulacan.
Villanueva went to elementary and high school in Bulacan. For college he went to the Polytechnic University of the Philippines (then known as Philippine College of Commerce), where he was a radical student leader and labor leader in the years leading to martial law imposition in 1972.
He earned a commerce degree (major in economics and minor in finance) in 1969 as the anti-Marcos protest actions escalated.
He went straight to teach economics, finance and political economy in PUP until 1972 and all the while continued to help organize workers’ strikes from 1969 to 1972.
He took up law at the University of the Philippines in 1971 but stopped after a year.
In martial law jail
Due to his involvement in workers’ strikes, he was jailed twice during martial law.
He went into hiding in Infanta, Quezon, and in the mountains of Tinago Island in Sorsogon when the writ of habeas corpus was suspended to evade the police which wanted him dead or alive.
It was at the height of his family’s uphill legal battle against a notorious land-grabbing syndicate in Bulacan that the atheist Villanueva experienced his spiritual conversion in 1973. This was after the land-grabbers were arrested and detained.
The love story
According to the book, “The JIL Love Story” by Michael Wourms (published in 1992), Villanueva single-handedly waged a legal battle against a well-entrenched syndicate that manipulated the foreclosure of a major piece of land which was the family’s major source of livelihood.
Driven to desperation by legal setbacks and uncooperative military authorities after several months, he was already resigned to joining the communist rebels to take vengeance against his family’s persecutors.
After a specially frustrating day at the military headquarters, Villanueva came home one night and came across one of his sister Leni’s letters which he used to ignore for beseeching him to turn to God for solution.
According to the book, Villanueva asked for a miracle in his fight against the land-grabbing syndicate before he started to read the Bible his sister had given him months ago.
Miracle seals conversion
Before the night was through, his readings had affected him profoundly that the once atheist and communist activist became a “born-again” Christian.
Five days after his profound spiritual encounter, the land-grabbers were arrested and detained. That miracle sealed his transformation.
Eventually he settled down with wife Adoracion Jose. They were married in 1971 at the St. Martin’s Church in Bocaue. Villanueva went into business as export manager of Maran Export Industries from 1973 to 1975 and as general manager of Agape Trading Co. from 1976 to 1977.
He returned to teaching in PUP from 1978 to 1979 and channeled his passion to bring about social justice into evangelism. He started Bible-sharing sessions with family and friends and his students.
He started JIL in 1978 as a regular Bible study group among 15 of his students.
For his new calling as an evangelist, he pursued further studies here and in the United States. He was ordained Minister of the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ in 1979 by Dr. Michael Mckinney of the Victory in Christ Church and International Ministries based in California.
Now 32 years later since Villanueva founded it, the JIL Church claims 6 million members in 44 countries.
He was appointed to the PUP Board of Regents for a record 13 years during the Ramos, Estrada and the early Arroyo administration. He donated his entire honorarium to the PUP Scholarship Fund.
With Villanueva as president and spiritual director, his wife Adoracion now referred to as Sister Dory is the executive director of JIL Church Worldwide and president/director of the Jesus Is Lord Colleges Foundation Inc.
They have four children; two are in politics, while two are involved in JIL.
Eduardo “Jon-Jon” Jr. is incumbent mayor of their hometown Bocaue, Bulacan; Joel has just finished three terms as party-list representative of the Citizens’ Battle Against Corruption (Cibac); Eleanor “Joni” is vice president for programming of ZOE TV-11 and director for administration of JIL Church Worldwide; while Edelisha “Jovi” is an educator.
Villanueva oversees JIL’s vast operations and multimedia ministries worldwide.
He is also founder and chancellor of the Jesus Is Lord Colleges Foundation (JILCF) Inc.
He is also national chair of the Philippines for Jesus Movement (PJM) and holds positions in various religious groups here and abroad.
Villanueva, however, temporarily asked to be relieved as JIL Church president while he is running for president.
He is also president and chair of ZOE Broadcasting Network, the franchise holder licensed to operate VHF Channel 11 and UHF Channel 33.
Villanueva understands the media very well. He used to host two TV programs over ZOE TV 11/GMA 7. He also has a radio program over DZJV 1458 based in Calamba, Laguna, and writes a column for two tabloids and for monthly publications in Hong Kong and Taiwan.
He has also written two books, “Find It! Straight From The Word” and “Surest Covenant” published in 2004 and contributed articles to two books.
The former activist joined the 1986 People Power Edsa revolution that toppled the Marcos dictatorship.
He supported the 2001 Second People Power revolt that ousted President Joseph Estrada and installed Vice President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo in power.
With a son as Bocaue mayor and another as party-list representative, Villanueva himself bit the political bullet and ran in 2004 for president. He founded Bangon Pilipinas as his political vehicle.
Garci victim, too
He ran by himself without a running mate nor a slate, counting on JIL members to recruit others to deliver the votes on Election Day.
He garnered 1.99 million votes—practically his entire evangelical constituency—to land him in fifth place.
Villanueva claimed he was also cheated in the 2004 elections as the “Hello Garci” controversy continues to hound Ms Arroyo’s victory. The alleged cheating involved former Elections Commissioner Virgilio Garcillano and a number of politicians and military officers.
As JIL leader, Villanueva endorsed several prominent candidates, among them former President Fidel Ramos, House Speaker Jose De Venecia, former Vice President Teofisto Guingona and Ms Arroyo.
He also endorsed senatorial candidates in the 2007 midterm elections, among them Senators and fellow presidential contenders Benigno Aquino III and Manuel Villar, vice presidential candidate Loren Legarda and Francis Escudero.
By his own admission, Villanueva said Bangon Pilipinas started organizing four years before the 2010 elections. Attempts to join forces with other religious bloc El Shaddai and the group of Catholic priest-turned-Pampanga Gov. Eddie Panlilio fell through.
Prior to officially declaring his candidacy, he formally announced a new movement called Bangon Pilipinas, Bagong Pilipino in Araneta Coliseum in March 2009.
Filling his campaign with symbolism, he announced his candidacy on Independence Day June 12 in historic Barasoian Church in Malolos, Bulacan.
He kicked off his campaign by unfurling at Luneta Park the biggest Philippine flag ever made and by performing the “washing of the feet” on his running mate and seven senatorial candidates (two were later added). According to the Bible, Christ once washed the feet of his disciples to demonstrate how it is to be a servant-leader.
Villanueva boasted that his party now has the political machinery they did not have in 2004.
This time he has a running mate, former Securities and Exchange Commission chair and losing 2001 senatorial candidate chair Perfecto Yasay Jr.
So as not to repeat his mistake of ignoring other religious groups, Villanueva gathered representatives from as many religious blocs and sectors for his senatorial slate.
Villanueva’s campaign is hinged on the theme that he could provide the “moral and righteous leadership” the country needs and took as slogan the promise of “zero corruption” during his six-year administration.
He believes all sectors of society from rebel groups to smuggling syndicates to foreign creditors will come around if a “godly, righteous leader” such as himself is elected as president.
Last March, candidate Villanueva reverted back to his role as an evangelist and led a prayer rally at the Luneta to ask for divine intervention for orderly elections and, at the same time, commemorate the 490th anniversary of the introduction of Christianity to the country.
“We will be faithful stewards of Your grace, of the gifts and talents to give glory and honor to You and be a blessing for our fellow mankind. We will govern in Your righteousness and justice, gird ourselves with Your truth and be clothed in Your compassion and mercy,” Villanueva read from a “Covenant with God as a People and Nation.”