MANILA, February 10, 2004 (STAR) ROSES AND THORNS By Alejandro R. Roces - The official period when the candidates for public office in this coming May election can campaign starts today. Two things worry us. First is the fact that the issue on whether one of the leading candidates for the presidency, Fernando Poe, Jr., is qualified to run. We agree with Sen. Joker Arroyo that this is a matter best left to the Supreme Court to decide. The Supreme Court has already taken cognizance of the case of archivist Ricardo Manapat. Sen. Arroyo’s suggestion is for the Senate itself to desist from conducting its own investigation. It would indeed be disastrous if the Supreme Court and the Senate investigating committee made conflicting decisions on the matter. This is a case that will be resolved by documentary evidence. We don’t see how any witness can attest and say that he has personal knowledge on whether Poe is a natural-born citizen or not. The sooner the Supreme Court decides this matter, the better.

The second issue that concerns us pertains to reports that many voters, (the figures run up to the hundred of thousands) have registered twice. What is the Comelec doing about this matter? Very clearly, these double registrants should be disqualified from even voting once for making a mockery of our election laws. Will the Comelec act on this matter before this coming election? If nothing is done, this coming election is a farce even before it has started.

To us, these are the two matters that should be settled at the earliest possible time. It should not be difficult to establish, first, the citizenship of Poe’s father and mother. Were both aliens? Were they married? If they were not legally husband and wife, then Poe automatically assumed the citizenship of his mother. And it is all a question of documentation.

As for the election itself, all we hope for is that it be peaceful, orderly and that issues and not just personalities will decide the voter’s choice. The candidates must come out clearly as to what their program of government is going to be. The main issue is economic. Election meetings and rallies should emphasize how the respective candidates hope to tackle our national problems. Voters should boycott rallies that just entertain. Those are counter-productive.

The future of the country for the coming next six years will largely depend on the outcome of the May elections. People deserve whatever quality of government they get. We have to elect statesmen to highest public positions.

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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