NAGA CITY,  May 10, 2004
By Sheila Crisostomo  —  Alyansa ng Pag-asa standard-bearer Raul Roco casts his vote here today with fervent hope that the electorate will give him the chance to help the nation recover from its "sickness."

"It’s not merely putting a new head in Malacañang. We must put a new regime of moral values. The Filipino nation and the Filipino people are sick. We must help the Filipino out of his sickness," Roco said.

The 62-year-old Roco, along with his wife Sonia and their children, will cast his vote at poll precinct 232-A in Sta. Cruz Elementary School in Barangay Sta. Cruz.

Roco began his political career here as a congressman of the 2nd district from 1987 to 1992. He was a senator from 1992 to 2001, until he was appointed Secretary of Education in February 2001. He considers the late Sen. Benigno Aquino Jr. as his mentor. He worked as a member of Aquino’s legal staff when he was fresh out of San Beda Law School.

In his youth, Roco became the youngest ever president of the National Union of Students of the Philippines and was adjudged one of the Ten Outstanding Students of the Philippines in 1964. He was also the youngest president of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines.

As a legislator, Roco was recognized as an "honorary woman" by women’s groups for authoring pro-women laws. These include the Women in Nation Building Law, the Nursing Act, the Anti-Sexual Harassment Law, the Anti-Rape Law and the Family Courts law.

Roco believes that today’s election is "very crucial" for the country as it will determine the future of today’s Filipino youths not just for the next six years but for the rest of their lives.

"We must now all strive for an honest government serving a healthy and literate people. With your help and support, we will overcome! By God’s grace, the Filipino people will prevail," he said.

A bit more guarded is Roco’s running mate, Herminio Aquino, who warned that the Filipino people might not have another chance for socio-economic reform if they don’t elect the right candidates in today’s polls.

"Hopefully, we would have made our statement for them to realize what our country needs right now. We really hope for the best. We may not have another chance like this to select our candidates freely," he said.

Aquino said that Philippine politics is "getting messier and messier" as the years pass by.

"It’s so convoluted. If nothing happens now, I don’t know what’s in store for our youth. Our political system needs to be cleansed. We must put a stop to personality politics," he said.

Roco said Alyansa’s platform of government is anchored on their so-called Agenda of HOPE, which stands for Honest government; Opportunity for all; Peace, productivity and prosperity; and Education and environment for sustainable development.

"HOPE is the driving force as we strive to establish an enabling presidency where no Filipino will be left behind in a society that is more secure, more just and more prosperous," he said.

Alyansa’s Senate bets are Jay Sonza, Frank Chavez, Edno Joson, Bong Coo, Nicanor Gatmaytan Jr., Melanio Mauricio and Perfecto Yasay.

Roco was the early bird yesterday, when he arrived ahead of the other presidential candidates for the "unity Mass" organized by former President Corazon Aquino at the San Agustin Church in Intramuros.

Manila Archbishop Cardinal Gaudencio Rosales presided over the Mass, which was attended by all five presidential candidates, including evangelist Bro. Eddie Villanueva.

Interviewed after the Mass, Roco, who was wearing one of his trademark floral shirts, said he "felt good" being together with his fellow candidates.

He expressed optimism that the good feeling will carry over to today’s election.

"The Filipino people have the opportunity to show the world that we have matured politically and we can grow by ourselves. That opportunity we must take and make the world envy the Philippines for its democracy," he said.

Roco also said unity will be the fruit of honest elections and "credible leadership." — With Nikko Dizon

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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