Win or lose Villar is prepared

COMMONSENSE - Marichu A. Villanueva1 -

Sen. Manuel B. Villar Jr. is perceived and is regarded as the most prepared, logistics and otherwise, compared to his rivals in the coming May 10 presidential elections. But is that his fault?

As early as two years ago, Villar declared his intentions to aspire for the highest office of the land as president of his own Nacionalista Party (NP). And for doing so, Villar was subsequently, unceremoniously ousted as Senate president. Stripped of official duties as Senate presiding chief, Villar, thus, got all the opportunities and time to start early his preparations for the presidential elections from that time on.

Villar capitalizes on his humble beginnings from a poor family in Tondo, having earned his first billion through sheer “sipag at tiyaga” that he adopted as a campaign motto. Having no pedigreed name in politics like certain presidential candidates, Villar has been candid in admitting that his large campaign expenses were precisely aimed to level the playing field. After all, name recall is the name of the game.

Archrivals score Villar’s preparations now being implemented by his camp in the ongoing presidential derby as if these were capital election offenses. Most of the bitter attacks are all directed at Villar’s campaign ads that highlight his rags-to-riches life story that has apparently been fast sinking in the psyche of the intended audience: The Filipino voters.

Unperturbed by these continuing attacks against him, Villar continues to present himself before Filipino voters as someone who promises to end poverty in our country.

Villar validated these perceptions on his preparedness during his almost three-hour sit-down interview with editors and columnists of The STAR on Monday. He was the first to confirm his attendance to our invitation to a series of STAR presidential election forums we dubbed: So you want to be a President?

Villar came to The STAR editorial office in Port Area, Manila straight from the airport after he arrived from Hong Kong. Villar and his vice presidential running mate Sen. Loren Legarda flew to Hong Kong upon invitation by El Shaddai charismatic leader Bro. Mike Velarde to join their prayer rally held there on Sunday.

Naturally, the first question I asked him was about the breaking news that day about the reported clarification by the El Shaddai leader that their group has not made any official endorsement yet. Villar conceded there was no such “formal” statement of support from the El Shaddai as a religious organization.

He went on, however, to point out that people would just have “to read between the lines” (or, perhaps, he should have said “read the body language” of Bro. Mike since there was no formal statement as he correctly pointed) and take note the Hong Kong-based El Shaddai followers among our Filipino workers wore orange T-shirts at the prayer rally held there. But orange is also the campaign hue of former President Joseph Estrada, I countered. Villar quickly riposted: “But who were there in Hong Kong?”

And talking about religious organizations, what would be the policy of a Villar presidency on the principle of separation of Church and State as enshrined in our 1987 Constitution? “It’s still separate. The Church can do what it wants to do with their members. That’s their right. And it’s also the right of each of their members to follow or not. But the government will not be dictated upon.”

A constant source of friction between the Church and the State are differing positions on family planning and population issues. How does Villar see these sticky issues that bedevil every presidency in this country?

An experienced and successful businessman, Villar views the country’s rapidly growing population as not a liability but an asset. “In fact, a big population would be a way in which we could be a great nation,” Villar cited.

He likens the running of the country’s economy to a corporation that should be managed well. “And I feel that we are managing our economy in an incompetent manner. So we’re trying to put the blame on the Constitution, on the huge population. I feel that once we are able to manage this country very well, these things won’t be constraints,” Villar pointed out.

Villar, who is Catholic, categorically stated he is against the enactment of a reproductive health (RH) bill out of personal conviction. “Because it (RH) should not be put into law. It’s up to the people what they want to do.” Swearing he is strictly one-family-man, Villar elicited guffaws with his one-liner retorts on questions about his fidelity. “No complications,” he stressed.

Of course, he refers to his wife, Las Piñas City Rep. Cynthia Villar. He dismissed as mere “envy” (na-i-inggit lang) the back-stabbing comments on him by certain foes at the Senate about his supposed use of “Botox” for his unblemished face. “It’s in our genes that we have good skin complexion,” he said and smiled. He is 60 years old.

He completed the sets of questions thrown his way about a wide-range of governance and policy issues to business and economic matters and all the way to sports. Villar even obliged to “Body Talk” one-on-one with our Entertainment Editor Ricky Lo that you can read in today’s issue of our newspaper.

Villar projects himself as the only presidential candidate who can deliver this promise by drawing out from his own wealth of experience in working hard to achieve a dream of better life for his family. If he did it and succeeded doing it, he believes he can do the same thing for the Filipino nation as a family. But that is his campaign line.

In my own chat with him, he reiterated this coming presidential election will be his last battle in life. He started his political career as a Congressman who was behind the cityhood of Las Piñas and authored other landmark laws of the land. He served for three consecutive terms in Congress and capped it by his Speakership.

Now on his second and last term in office as Senator, Villar told me he is ready to return to his being an ordinary Senator to serve the remaining three years in office in case he loses in the presidential race. He says he is as prepared to win and is also prepared for what lies ahead if the presidency is not his destiny.

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