Tuesday, May 4


Some are called to lead despite remaining passive and unprepared most of their lives. They are suddenly presented with this grace, this opportunity to shine, but have done very little to earn this kind of noble calling. Beware of this kind of leader; he may just be going with the flow, blinded by the prospect of power and fame, and deafened by the roar of the crowd behind him. He may realize too late that he lacks the tools and the strength to shoulder the burden of leadership.

Then there are those who have been preparing most of their lives to gain the experiences and muster the strength to have what it takes to be a true leader. They are the ones who are truly prepared, who have done their homework, so to speak. They have the confidence and they have the tools and the capability to rise to the occasion. The inspiration they provide stems from their own lives, not from something bestowed upon by family background or circumstance.

The Self-Made Man

Manny Villar clearly belongs to this category. He is a self-made man, having built himself from scratch. He does not have a movie star's charisma to beguile the poor to vote for him. He does not rely on any distinguished pedigree or lineage to propel himself, because he really comes from humble origins. What he does have are concrete achievements as both entrepreneur and political figure. Powerful actions back up his inspiring words and programs, which is why you can believe in them.

Almost every Filipino by now knows that he, among all the candidates in the coming election, understands the true meaning of hardship. Coming from the poor, he exudes genuine compassion and understanding of what the destitute and the needy go through. Every Filipino knows this adage: “Ang hindi lumingon sa pinanggalingan, di makararating sa paroroonan.” Villar certainly knows he couldn’t have reached this far in life without always looking back at what he went through. And that should greatly inspire the multitude to rise from their present misery and want and on to the fulfillment of their dreams. Sipag at Tiyaga! Everyone knows that this simple philosophy of life is true. It is anchored in reality. It is something you can hold on to. It is a genuine promise of our salvation. It is a genuine roadmap to our progress.

Everything starts with the individual.

And it starts with you.

Anti-Poverty Platform

Manny Villar does not make promises alone. Although he has made poverty alleviation a top priority, he knows this is something that everyone, including the poor themselves, must strive for and work towards. He is just keeping it real and being honest about it.

This is his powerful message to the masses who are always mired in poverty, one administration after another. Many people say that corruption causes poverty. While this is surely true, it is also more the other way around : poverty causes corruption. Root out poverty, empower the people with the means to live well and rise above their station in life, and you can eliminate the need to beg, to steal, to kill. It is certainly important to eliminate corruption, especially those that happen in high places because they affect the most people. But equally important is the need to address the heart of poverty. And the inequitable distribution of wealth and access to it lies at the heart of this matter including his entrepreneurial revolution.

Nacionalista Party senatorial bet Gilbert Remulla hit it right when he said that the biggest issue for voters in the May 10 polls is poverty. All other problems are just side issues. Having overcome poverty himself, Manny could have easily been contented with having a comfortable life, except that he continually feels he has to give back to the poor and inspire them to elevate themselves. This is what the other candidates lack – genuine empathy with the impoverished, not just lip-service. And that's what's propelling him to popularity. People know it's about time to consider a candidate with solid credentials instead of empty promises. We need a candidate with programs backed up by experience and achievement instead of one riding on popularity alone.

And there's no one with more experience and achievement than Villar. Consider his accomplishments even before he embarked on his political career. He became known as the “housing czar” for initiating mass housing projects that benefited more than 100,000 poor and middle-class families. His pioneering initiatives and innovations that revolutionized the country's mass housing industry were complemented by his enactment of economic and social reform laws that proved vital in sustaining the country's economic momentum and improvement of the lives of Filipinos.

Achievements in Congress

As a young congressman, he applied his economic and managerial expertise in bringing about economic reform measures during the Ramos administration, such as the New Foreign Investments Act and the restructuring of the Central Bank.

He organized the “Manpower on Wheels Program” to help educate poor students. It has since produced more than 5,000 graduates and been awarded by various government and civic organizations. This accomplishment backs up his current plan of action to spend more for education and create a more competitive environment among schools and among teachers.

He oversaw various infrastructure projects in Las PiƱas, and steered this district and Muntinlupa to cityhood. He upgraded the hospitals, launched drug prevention programs, and authored several legislation and initiatives that protected and promoted small and medium entrepreneurship. In the process, he garnered the highest satisfaction ratings while leading both Houses of Congress. As House Speaker, he was able to reform the “pork barrel” system, paved the way for leadership reform by appointing neophyte congressmen to head important committees such as ecology and banks, and pioneered laws such as Retail Trade Liberalization Act, the New Central Bank Act, New Securities Code and the New Banking Act.

Achievements as Senator

As a neophyte senator in 2001, Villar filed 204 bills covering a comprehensive legislative program of action. He authored 44 laws during the 12th Congress, filed bills aimed at providing business opportunities for the people and improving the Filipinos' quality of life through basic health care, decent shelters, responsive social services and high quality education. He spearheaded the building of schools, sent out medical missions and set up relief operations whenever or wherever needed. In addition to initiating a livelihood training program with the Sipag at Tiyaga Caravan Kaalaman, he privately funded a tree-planting drive consisting of over 1 million trees as his environmental advocacy. (Reads his legislative performance and Manny Villar's Governance Matrix)

Villar's life and achievements are too numerous to fit this page, but it should be sufficient to note that actions do back up his words. He is getting a lot of criticism for having the biggest advertising expenditure, but the good thing here is that he spends his own money, without the need for “backers” who naturally want to recoup expenses once he is elected. After decades of getting used to “crony capitalism,” we finally have a solid candidate who is a crony of no one, who is beholden to no one but the country. His advertising expenditure, in addition to carrying his messages of “sipag at tiyaga,” point to his capability as a business leader and effective communicator, and these qualities are important to have for someone to represent our country in the world stage.


Two signs show how effective Villar's advertising and marketing programs are: his lead in the polls, and the desperation of his detractors. As the campaign season heats up with him leading the surveys, more criticisms are bound to come flying thick and fast, left and right. But many people find this pathetic. The way his opponents have been hurling the C-5 issue against him is simply pulitika. Clearly, there has been no anomaly in the C-5 project; it is even a project that Villar is proud of. As he himself stated, “Only those with vision, capability, and are strong-willed can be part of something like the C5 project – a project that shows the country is moving forward. While many of us who want to get elected promise progress for our country, C5 is that promise realized. It is there for everyone to benefit from and take advantage of. “

Indeed, people will see this as the desperate move by his rivals to discredit him. Meanwhile, some candidates relish in bashing him but they will never get far with this kind of negativity. The people want candidates that can outline their programs in a positive way. Attacking somebody else is a cheap gimmickry that's good for a few laughs and a short hoopla but that's just about it.

If a candidate has truth on his side, and is backed up by genuine capability to manage people and lead the country, the slings and arrows of outrageous accusations will never hurt him. Instead he will shine through, as only the best among us does in the face of adversity.

Count on it.