March 2, 2004 (STAR) FROM THE STANDS By Domini M. Torrevillas - We have entered the threshold of deciding our next national and local leaders, and already, we are being bedeviled by the harsh hand of politicians.

Those who are concerned about where this country is going are worried about the quality of politicians who will be voted to power in the May elections. It seems the least worried are the masa who are perceived to vote for movie stars without a care as to how they will govern the country. But well-schooled academicians and economists are also backing candidates who have little, if at all, training in governance, and one wonders what their motive really is: donít tell me they are helping in the candidates campaign out of a pure and simple desire to help.

I doubt if there are such types around.

The more serious voters want to know what the candidates stand for, and they are for the holding of debates in public stages and on television. If shooting down gangsters on celluloid is what will make candidates win, then we know who will be our next leaders. But we must face realities, not twiddle on fiction and fantasy. Which is why we must listen to what the presidential aspirants have to say on every issue that affects our people. Never mind if they stammer or stumble; their being human can even win them votes. Provided they are sincere and intelligent. Who wants a stupid president?

What is so funny Ė and yet tragic Ė is that some misguided people say that weíve had enough highly-trained, Wharton-schooled or topnotch lawyers for governors, now letís have school drop-outs show the world that they can turn the Philippine image around. They have not learned from what Estrada did to this country.

Debates will tell us not only how intelligent the aspirants are, but also how quick they are to respond to questions asked by interrogators and phoned-in by listeners. If they cannot answer such questions now, how will they converse with foreign investors and heads of state visiting this country?

For sure candidates well versed in public speaking will dominate the debates. President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo will have the benefit of experience and the unquestioned intelligence to carry her through such debates. Raul Roco is a seasoned debater and orator. And Brother Eddie Villanueva has conquered thousands of hearts and minds for Jesus from decades of preaching the gospel. As to Ronnie Poe Jr., well, I still have to hear him say something that will convince me that he will be a good president.

If a candidate dares to run for president, he/she should be brave enough to think and to tell people what he/she thinks. And public debates are the best stage from which to express oneís readiness to govern this nation.

We have become so focused on politics that we tend to forget or not bother about other important things that create a positive impact on people and communities. One such development is the formation of a partnership between Mirant Philippines and the Asian Institute of Management (AIM) with the intention of helping government bring lasting peace and development in the Mindanao region. The two institutions have established the "AIM-Mirant Center for Bridging Societal Divides," for peaceful and sustainable resolution of conflicts in the country, beginning with Mindanao.

The program seeks to address problems of long standing by developing leaders who are responsive to the specific needs of an area towards achieving lasting peace and development.

Edgardo Bautista, president of Mirant Philippines, says the center, which is the first of its kind the world, adopts a new method of training leaders who have "the bridging qualities and harmonizing skills."

The establishment of the center is an extension of Mirantís Alliance for Mindanao Off-grid RenewableEnergy (Project AMORE), which is being undertaken with the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and Winrock Intāl that will energize 165 barangays in conflict areas in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).

"With the establishment of the center, we expect to help significantly in healing the wounds and rekindling the hope of our fellow Filipino in Mindanao and other troubled areas," says Bautista

Mirantís partnership with AIM is part of the firmís Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) programs aimed at improving the quality of life of Filipinos.

* * *


Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

All rights reserved