MANILA, January 27, 2004 (STAR) ROSES AND THORNS By Alejandro R. Roces - An ad in television has been projecting the images of three former Southeast Asian leaders who led their respective countries to peace, progress and prosperity. The ad ends asking our local politicians to follow their examples.

Historically, our nation has been the second most economically advanced country in Asia, (next only to Japan) since the Spanish times. After the Marcos misrule, we became the poorest country in Asia after Bangladesh.

Our presidential election used to be a choice between the country’s two top statesmen. Issues were discussed. Now, the candidates do not even have to show knowledge of the issues. Media exposure has taken the place of personal qualifications. And election itself is mostly entertainment. If this trend becomes the people’s basis for their choice of candidates, we will even be more backward than Bangladesh.

The truth is that up to this point in time, the public does not know what are the issues that should be the basis for their choice of candidates, which should be determined by their stand on those issues. What does Fernando Poe, Jr. stand for? No one knows. He is just banking on this popularity as a movie actor to get all the votes he will need to be elected as president.

The truth is that our voters today are not as sophisticated and intelligent as before. They are no longer influenced by their education, but by media, television and radio. They cannot tell the make-believe world from reality. Erap Estrada’s popularity, for instance, has not declined. It has been steadfast from the time he was a movie idol to the time he was president and up to now when he is in jail after his impeachment from the presidency. His admirers see him as the movie hero who conquered all problems.

Election is only four months away. President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo will definitely present our national problems before the people. And she will present her program to tackle these problems. Will Fernando Poe, Jr. do the same? Or will he merely entertain the crowd? If this is what we can expect for this coming election, then we know th answer as to why we now lie behind all countries in Asia.

It is not too late for Fernando Poe, Jr. to come out with his program for government. At the moment, the general public impression is that he is not even familiar with the national issues. His movie fans, of course, couldn’t care less. They believe that he can overcome any problem the way he does on the screen. The problem is that when you are president, you are not dependent on any screenplay or director. It is how you face and solve the nation’s problems that will determine your success.

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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