ONLY two of the six presidential candidates went to the “Miting-de-Avance ’04; The Presidentiables Speak,” at the Faculty of Medicine and Surgery Auditorium last Feb. 3.

Former senator and education secretary Raul Roco and Jesus is Lord movement founder Bro. Eddie Villanueva were given the exclusive chance to “court” the Thomasian community, defend their candidacy and present their political agenda and platforms in front of an awed Thomasian crowd and various cause-oriented organizations.

The two candidates expressed affinity.

Roco said he had always admired UST’s Faculty of Civil Law because of the quality of graduates it produces (like 2003 bar topnotcher Arlene Maneja). Meanwhile, Villanueva told the Varsitarian that he has an “utang na loob” to the University because all his three kids studied here. His eldest son and daughter finished at the UST Pay High School, while his second son, Congressman Emmanuel Villanueva, finished Economics at the Faculty of Arts and Letters in 1996 and even played for UST in the UAAP games.

While both candidates stressed the need for change, they differed on how to achieve it.

Roco said his Agenda of Hope (H—Honest government; O—Opportunity for all, special privileges for none; P—Peace, productivity and Prosperity; and E—Education and environment for sustainable development) sums up the fundamental measures needed for change.

“We need 21st century leaders who can see things as they are, who adopt clear and consistent principles to deal with (the) change,” Roco said. “It is essential that these leaders have a track record in being successful change agents; who know that development starts with people, and that the government’s main role is to remove obstacles to development.”

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On the other hand, Villanueva said his strategy for change is a national moral transformation, which will be led by a moral president.

“The whole nation must rise from the morass of corruption that has been pulling it down for decades, but it cannot do so unless it is led by a moral president,” he explained.

Villanueva also introduced a 10-point program in tackling such concerns as employment, entrepreneurship and agriculture, which will be the basic agenda for his “strictly six-year term presidency.”

“I have no political ambition and am only willing to lend six years of my existence in leading a righteous government that will ensure the best future for the next generation,” he added.

Villanueva’s stint in UST was the first time he presented his agenda since he was only recently recognized as the official presidential candidate of the Bangon Pilipinas party.

Meanwhile, President Macapagal-Arroyo, who came to the University the day before to launch an education program (see related article page 1), sent senate candidate Orlando Mercado to represent her.

Roco took a dig at the President for her absence.

“I’ve just heard that somebody who promised to come this morning did not come, just as she decided to run for the presidency when she promised not to do so last December,” Roco said, eliciting laughter and applause from the audience.

Mercado emphasized the importance of political continuity and stability and enumerated Macapagal’s achievements and pending programs especially for the youth.

Sen. Panfilo Lacson, who previously confirmed his attendance, allegedly backed out when he found out that Macapagal and Roco were coming, according to organizers.

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Faculty of Arts and Letters professor Edmund Tayao explained that the event served as a venue for the students to be given a chance to know more about the candidates and their plans.

“We have to emphasize that there is a youth vote and they should hear from the candidates themselves what their platforms and programs are,” Tayao said. “Appealing to the students would have to be at this time because we are already rounding up for the end of the semester and there would be no other opportunity to do so. The term miting de avance here is only used as theme to give the students that opportunity.” Elka Krystle R. Requinta

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