Fighting graft should top Aquino's agenda

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 01 July, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 01 July, 2010, 12:00am

An incoming leader should be cut some slack, and new Philippine President Benigno 'Noynoy' Aquino has been given plenty. He took office yesterday riding an extraordinary wave of goodwill pinned on hopes he can deliver on an ambitious agenda of change. Filipinos long for moral and political renewal and they see him as the best person to bring this about. By getting promptly down to work, there is a good chance their aspirations can be met during his six-year term.

Name-recognition and nostalgia were in part behind Aquino's election. His late parents are revered for their opposition to dictator Ferdinand Marcos; his mother, Corazon, took the presidency after the leader's removal in a popular uprising, and is feted as an icon of democracy.

But as much behind the new president's taking of the oath of office yesterday was his battle cry to stamp out corruption. He will have a tough job: this is endemic.

But it is not just these generations-old scourges that Filipinos want him to rid their country of. As whenever a new president takes over, they also yearn that the nation's myriad other problems will be dealt with. Among these are the economy, poverty, education, unemployment and the religious conflict in Mindanao. It is a tall order for even the most seasoned leader.

Aquino has an unremarkable political record. He did nothing noteworthy during his terms in Congress. But this should not be reason to doubt his convictions or abilities. The honeymoon period for any leader may allow him or her to get done what would otherwise be difficult or impossible.

Aquino has promised a new era of good governance. He has pledged to reform the judicial system and bureaucracy and make politicians accountable. Given his strong mandate to rule and the desire for change, there is nothing standing in his way. After the celebrations end, he has to get down to work. A good starting point is to take the fight against corruption to the doors of the politicians who have eroded so much faith in the government and the country.