Key issues Aquino, Erap, Gibo, Villar must address

by Manny Mogato, Reuters

Posted at Jan 18 2010 01:09 PM | Updated as of Jan 18 2010 09:12 PM

MANILA - Philippine opposition senator Benigno "Noynoy" Aquino has taken an initial lead in opinion polls for the May presidential elections, but no clear favourite has emerged because candidates have not revealed their platforms.

Analysts say the presidential race will hurt local markets in a big way if the elections do not produce credible results, while a smooth transition of power will likely boost investments in local stocks and debt papers.
Here are some questions and answers on major economic and political issues markets want the top four presidential candidates to address:
BENIGNO AQUINO - Aquino's phenomenal rise in popularity polls can be traced to an outpouring of emotion after the death of his mother, the country's revered democracy icon Corazon Aquino, in August 2009 and his campaign promise to fight corruption in government. 
He vowed in his political ads and website to be the country's first and most determined corruption fighter, but he has not given details.
Unlike his three main rivals, he has not been involved in any corruption scandal and he has lived simply, opting to reside in the same house he grew up in. 
MANUEL VILLAR - Billionaire lawmaker Villar, ranking second in most polls, has been linked to a multi-million dollar infrastructure project allegedly inserted in the national budget. His opponents say the project was aimed at benefitting his family's property company.

He promises to fight graft, which he said has contributed to poor delivery of services and bad infrastructure, but also has not given details.
JOSEPH ESTRADA - Former president Estrada was ousted from office in 2001, later convicted of plunder and then pardoned by President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo. He has denied any wrongdoing and has vowed to fight corruption and nepotism.
Estrada was known during his three-year rule for throwing midnight parties with gambling and drinking buddies.
GILBERTO TEODORO - Although former defence chief Gilberto Teodoro has never been involved in any irregularity, his close association with Arroyo, who has been hounded by corruption issues since 2005, weighs him down.
During his term as defence chief, Teodoro suspended a multi-million dollar deal to acquire combat helicopters due to allegations of bribery and contract fixing.
AQUINO - Aquino has an economics degree but no experience as an economist. He has yet to lay down a clear platform on how to address the budget deficit problem and the market is nervous about how he will tackle the revenue shortfall given his little executive or managerial experience.
VILLAR - Villar has vowed to be prudent in state spending to cut the budget deficit, now at record levels, and raise revenues. He promised to raise the country's revenue to GDP ratio from 12 percent to 17 percent, but did not give details on the specific measures he will undertake.
ESTRADA - Estrada has not given details on his fiscal programme but in his short-lived presidency during the Asian financial crisis, he kept a tight rein on spending to limit the fiscal shortfall.
TEODORO - Teodoro is widely expected to continue the current government's fiscal programme, which aims to balance the budget by 2013.
AQUINO - In his website, Aquino said he will pursue a broadly supported peace deal with Muslim rebels that will address decades of neglect. His running mate and the leader of his political party, Senator Manuel Roxas III, opposed a government deal expanding the autonomy for Muslims that led to an escalation of conflict in Mindanao in 2008.
VILLAR - He has said in public debates that poverty is the root of the the peace and order problem in the southern Mindanao region. He said state resources must be poured into the region if the government was serious in uplifting the lives of people in Mindano.
ESTRADA - He advocated iron-fisted policies to defeat communist and secessionist rebels during his administration and is expected to assume the same stance when elected.
TEODORO - As a former defence secretary, Teodoro is well placed to tackle the communist and Muslim insurgency issues. Like all the other candidates, he favours holding peace talks to end the insurgencies that have killed more than 160,000 people and displaced 2 million. He has also said the government must invest in increased police and military visibility in Mindanao to eradicate private armies.