MANILA, March 23, 2004  (MALAYA) By JOAN DAIRO No-nonsense leadership, leadership by example and a very clear agenda for his first 100 days as president.

These, according to business leaders, were what they saw when Sen. Panfilo Lacson appeared at their forum yesterday in Makati.

The Council of Business Leaders of the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry has met with President Arroyo and Fernando Poe Jr. as part of its First 100-Day forum for presidential candidates.

The group, headed by former Finance Secretary Jose Pardo, is presenting to presidential bets a position paper, titled "Presidential Business Agenda: First 100 Days," which is a compilation of proposed reforms and actions plans.

The leaders said Lacson's clear positions on various issues were a far cry from the general statements made by the other presidential candidates.

"He has been very direct in his responses," Pardo said.

"I guess coming from his background his experience in government, a no-nonsense type of leadership is what he told us he's prepared to offer. Subordinating politics and concentrating on what has to be done. Leadership by example that he kept repeating, assuring us this will be the brand of leadership you will see under a Lacson presidency."

Pardo said if Lacson becomes president, it would be easy to determine whether he was complying with his commitments, because his platform is very specific.

Donald Dee of the Confederation of Garments Exporters of the Philippines said Lacson was "very clear on what he intends to do" during his first 100 days in office.

"On an overall basis, I think Senator Ping is very clear on what he wants to do if he's given a chance to serve as president of the country."

Sergio Ortiz-Luis of the Philippine Exporters Confederation said: "I guess it would be very easy to monitor him if he does win ... He is impressive as far as many businessmen are concerned."

Pardo said Lacson's platform, which focuses on stopping crime and corruption in government, was similar to their proposed agenda.

Like Lacson, Pardo said businessmen consider fiscal and law and order as among the country's biggest problems.

Next to these, Lacson and the business leaders see an urgent need to eliminate graft and corruption in government.

Lacson said he was confident that business leaders agree with him on the need to change the present leadership.

He said their 100-day agenda was a "backhanded condemnation of the present administration."

"I asked them that if the Philippines were one of your corporations, would you have handed the walking papers to your CEO who is GMA? They didn't answer, they just smiled," Lacson said.

Pardo agreed with Lacson's position that the country needs a no-nonsense leadership after May.

"I guess times call for strong leadership if we're to get over the hump and be able to move forward," Pardo said.

Miguel Varela of PCCI said their 100-day agenda is meant to help whoever is elected.

"Whoever is selected, we want to work very closely. If once elected, try to unify the country and help in the unification, so the economy can continue. As much as possible we want to be apolitical," Varela said.

In the forum, Lacson said he was amenable to foreign ownership of lands, a move that could be possible if the Constitution is amended.

The issue, Pardo said, was not discussed in their position paper but Lacson nonetheless made known his position on the matter.

Lacson said he was keen on opening land ownership to foreigners, recognizing the need for more investment inflow.

"We have been starving when it comes to foreign direct investments especially compared to China, which has been cornering most of the investment pie," he said.

Lacson said while he favors taxing text messaging, this should be shouldered by telecommunication companies and not by subscribers.

"It should be in the form of direct taxes. If it is indirect taxes, it will hit the consumers who are addicted to texting and text-based services. We should tax the income of the service providers, the telecom companies," he said.

Lacson said government could work out details "but it should be in the form of direct taxes."

Lacson stated his position favoring the agenda's proposal to legalize jueteng, which he said is no different from other forms of gambling like casinos and lotto.

"Why should we not take steps to legalize jueteng? If we don't legalize it, then let's make illegal all forms of gambling. We should be consistent," he said.

On unemployment, he said it is a problem that requires a series of solutions.

Lacson remained confident he would win and prove wrong surveys, which has consistently showed him in fourth place.

He told the forum: "I'll do a Zapatero. You know who he is, Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero," referring to the incoming leader of Spain who beat the surveys by having his party win a majority in the Spanish parliament.

"So surveys are not a guarantee of winnability. There are such things as platform, qualification, most important, there's such a thing as country, there's such a thing as Filipino," he said.

Lacson said he would win the elections without the help of entertainers.

"No actors, no singers, no entertainers. It's distracting for the candidate because you cannot judge if the people are there to listen to you or watch the entertainers," he said.

With none of the "distractions" in his campaign, Lacson said he and his lone senatorial candidate Rep. Carlos Padilla are able to discuss their platform of government with the people.

On Sunday night in Cavite, Lacson said he was more determined and energized than ever in pursuing the presidency because of the warm reception he and Padilla have been getting during their sorties.

Lacson was at a fund-raising dinner organized by the Lacson for President Movement (LPM) at the Island Cove resort in Cavite.

"Even if your stamina or your determination is becoming weak, when you see supporters like these, then you are being energized. And we experienced this almost everywhere we hold campaign sorties," he said.

Lacson said the support he has been getting is the main reason he is not withdrawing from the race.

But he said he still considers the importance of unification between his camp and that of Fernando Poe Jr.

"Minsan nga one week na lang before election, nagkakaroon pa ng merger eh. So, up to now, I still don't see any problem," he said.

But since their fourth meeting, which was set last week, was canceled, Lacson said he does not want to talk about it for the meantime.

And if another meeting is set, Lacson said he wants it limited to only him and Poe. "This time (if re-scheduled), as much as possible we will just keep it to ourselves," he said.

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

All rights reserved