MANY welcomed the chance to assess six presidential aspirants in last month’s “Choices and Voices 2010” forum, but organizers of similar events would be wise to give the candidates more time and encourage them to address old problems.

These suggestions came from two community leaders tapped to assess the forum, just as the campaign for the presidency and other national positions officially began yesterday.

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“They (the six presidentiables) did not address the things that count,” said Joel Mari Yu, managing director of the Cebu Investment and Promotions Center (CIPC) during the forum’s appreciation night last Monday at Casino Español. The three business chambers tapped him to serve as one of the forum analysts.

Yu said the candidates should have discussed how they intend to promote meritocracy, level the playing field and fix outdated policies or processes.

“The current situation is that opportunities in jobs and positions in the government are given on the basis of political patronage,” he said.

Those close to the powers-that-be also enjoy an edge in business, a situation that puts off potential investors, Yu said. The candidates, he said, should have discussed how they want to make the business environment fairer.

“There will be little interest from foreign investors if the country continues to be like this,” Yu said.

The forum helped the people know the six candidates and their views on certain issues, but needs to be supplemented by similar activities, another analyst said.

“More discussions should be encouraged with more time for our candidates to elaborate on the issues raised because the debate, in a way, constrained the candidates from explaining their answers,” said Roderic Poca of the University of San Carlos.

He found commendable the early deadline for the filing of certificates of candidacy, saying this gave the people more time to scrutinize the qualifications and integrity of the candidates.

“The three business chambers have already brought the candidates closer to Cebuanos. It is now up to the Cebuanos who they will support,” said Eric Mendoza, president of the Mandaue Chamber of Commerce and Industry (MCCI), one of the chambers behind last month’s forum.

With the success of the presidential forum, Dondi Joseph, president of the Cebu Business Club (CBC), said they also plan to organize fora for the candidates running for local positions.

“Perhaps we can do this one-on-one with the local candidates. It is important for the business sector and society to know the platforms of these candidates for Cebu,” Joseph said.

The presidential forum was jointly organized by the Cebu Chamber of Commerce and Industry, MCCI and CBC and held last Jan. 22 in the Cebu International Convention Center. Those who attended the forum were Sen. Benigno Aquino III, Sen. Manuel Villar, Sen. Richard Gordon, Atty. Gilberto Teodoro Jr., Eddie Villanueva and former president Joseph Estrada.

In a separate event last Monday, Stephen Paradies, senior vice president and chief financial officer of Aboitiz Equity Ventures, weighed in on the qualities the next president of the Philippines should have.

In an interview with Sun.Star Cebu, he said what the country needs is a leader with a vision.

“Integrity is very important,” he added, “and that person has to have the political will to have his programs executed.”

Asked which presidential aspirant he considers the most friendly to business, he replied, “I think they’re all friendly to business.”

To improve the business climate in the country, he said the next president should invest in infrastructure, particularly roads and airports, all over the country.