MANILA, February 10, 2004 (STAR) Now that the campaign period has officially started, we may finally hear the platforms of government of those who think they deserve to lead this nation for the next six years. Motherhood statements will not do. Who will argue with the need for peace and prosperity, for poverty alleviation and economic recovery? Which presidential candidate did not promise to stamp out corruption and keep relatives and friends out of government deals? Who isnít a candidate for the masses?

This time we want to hear speci-fics. The next six years will determine whether we can ever regain our footing in a highly competitive globalized environment, or whether we will be doomed to be the basket case in a region long associated with dynamic growth.

Itís not enough for a candidate to promise food on every table; the candidate must specify how he or she intends to do this. Itís not enough to tout personal honesty; a candidate must explain how this can be possible when he is surrounded by the notoriously dishonest and corrupt.

Candidates must not skirt controversial issues that are crucial to national growth. To make informed choices, voters need to know a candidateís stand on population control, on constitutional amendments, on lifting ownership limits for foreign investors. The candidate must have a clear program of ensuring a steady supply of electricity and potable water that can keep up with the demands of a growing nation. We need to know how a candidate intends to make the rule of law prevail, and how he or she intends to deal with festering problems such as the communist and Muslim insurgencies. We need to know how the candidate intends to bring development to the troubled South.

If candidates have nothing to offer but empty rhetoric, they can at least tone down the mudslinging and dirty tricks. The ill will bred by negative campaigning tends to linger throughout the incumbency of whoever wins the presidency, hobbling governance and hence national progress. National unity may be a pipe dream in this country, but civility is not impossible. If they have nothing of substance to offer voters, candidates should at least do their part to keep the elections orderly.

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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