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Profile: Manny Villar
Self-made property billionaire spends millions on campaign for the presidency.
Last Modified: 07 May 2010 01:00 GMT
Villar's popularity has been dented by allegations he used his post to enrich himself [AFP]

Senator Manny Villar began his campaign for the presidency as somewhat of a dark horse.

An oppositionist, he had been Senate President for a number of years and yet commanded little recognition across the country.

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But all that changed before the official campaign season began.

He got around election rules by pouring millions into promoting his image without mentioning that he would be running for president.

By January, when the national electoral body was monitoring the imposed limits on campaign expenditures, Villar reigned in his publicity blitz.

But by then his popularity was already on the rise, and he was suddenly polling neck-and-neck with the previously perceived shoe-in contender, Senator Benigno 'Noynoy' Aquino III, son of Philippine democracy icon Cory Aquino.

A self-made billionaire, Villar rose from humble beginnings making his fortune in real estate.

He has campaigned on a promise to put his expertise into alleviating the masses from the same poverty he says he faced in his childhood.

But his track record has been anything but spotless.

While in the Senate, he faced many investigations into alleged corrupt practices, most of which remain unresolved.

He has been seen to be throwing money around – and has been called to task by opponents who claim he has paid for endorsements from leading religious figures and paid for politicians to run on his ticket.

His campaign has also been blamed for running black-ops smear attacks on his rivals – the most recent centring on charges that he claimed his leading opponent was mentally handicapped and incapacitated.

Such accusations have dented his early surge in popularity.

In most recent surveys, his lead has been eroded by an unlikely contender in the form of Joseph Estrada, the former president convicted of plunder and removed from power by a popular revolt.    

Source:
Al Jazeera
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