MANILA, January 14, 2003 (STAR)  Former senator Raul Roco, who has consistently topped popularity surveys ahead of the 2004 presidential polls, vowed yesterday to stamp out corruption and improve transparency if elected into office.

Roco said corruption was not only prevalent in the civil service, including the judiciary, but also in the corporate sector.

"Mindsets have to be changed (to fight corruption). There are many in the judiciary who are corrupt," Roco said, noting that corporate leaders were partly to blame for allowing corruption to take root. "It needs two to tango."

He stressed there must be concrete efforts to inculcate "social responsibility" in corporate and political leaders.

"This is what we must aspire for. We must educate," he said.

Asked if he would definitely contest the presidency in the 2004 polls, Roco said: "It depends on the people."

Various surveys have consistently placed Roco as the front runner for the presidential polls, with President Arroyo’s popularity dipping.

In a survey released last month, the private polling firm Social Weather Stations (SWS) said Roco would beat Mrs. Arroyo if elections were to be held now.

Mrs. Arroyo however, has announced she would not seek a second term, virtually changing the political landscape and giving Roco a bigger chance at the presidency.

Roco placed third in the 1998 presidential election won by Joseph Estrada, who was deposed in a military-backed popular uprising in 2001 and replaced by Mrs. Arroyo, who was then Estrada’s vice president.

Mrs. Arroyo later named the 60-year-old former senator as her education secretary, but Roco quit the post in August after he accused the presidential palace of humiliating him over a graft probe. He has since become an Arroyo critic.

In another development, the President said in a statement that she will pursue with greater vigor her campaign against graft and corruption, especially now that she is out of the running for the presidency in 2004.

In an interview with the Cable News Network aired over the weekend, Mrs. Arroyo said, "now that I am out of the contest for the 2004 elections, that gives me much more leeway and freedom to pursue with laser beam focus the reforms that are really needed to build our country into a strong republic."

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