I DON'T have any illusion that our next president can eradicate corruption in the country within his term of office. Corruption is so pervasive and, under the Arroyo administration, has reached the highest levels of government (estimates of public funds lost to corruption: $4 billion annually). That Augean stable needs a Hercules to clean.

The perception that the government bureaucracy has gotten hopeless has bred the indifference that has led many Filipinos to head for abroad, bringing entire families with them. The blow is heaviest on our elections. Loss of faith in the system has prompted people to either shy away from the polls or vote for the “lesser evil” among the bets.

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I was among those who, early on, noted a lack of credible material among the presidentiables for this year’s elections.

It’s not that we lack good leaders. It’s just that those with the potential to be one do not run for a government post. I would have been partial for, say, a Hilario Davide but he is cocooned in his ambassadorial post in the US.

I was looking for a presidentiable with, first and foremost, integrity. Capability is important but lessons of the past show that capability without integrity is meaningless.

Gibo Teodoro would look puny when ranged against a Ferdinand Marcos in terms of “galing at talino,” but look at how damaging to Filipinos the Marcos dictatorship was.

When Edsa 2 ousted an incompetent and corrupt Joseph Estrada, many considered Gloria Macapagal Arroyo a better alternative given her background as economist.

Having an actor for president was a bust. A well-schooled president should do better. We were wrong. Corruption under the Arroyo government is considered the worst post-Marcos.

That’s what makes Manny Villar’s candidacy worrisome. The man styles himself as a competent manager. But the C-5 controversy proved he has no qualms about using his position in government to serve his private interests. It’s the same old capability vs. integrity issue once more. Without integrity, can a good manager be any better?

Thus, many of my friends who were been disillusioned by the country’s political setup are now gravitating towards Noynoy Aquino. I could see once more the flicker of hope in their eyes, the sense of purpose. This is not about Noynoy, they caution me.

This is about what he represents. He personifies a cause that my friends believe in.

If change were to be effected in the coming years, we need a president that is an anti-thesis of what Gloria Arroyo is, or an anti-Gloria. And a leader can only be an anti-Gloria if he possesses what Arroyo does not have or has lost: integrity.

That integrity must be visible and not nebulous. Belief in his integrity should stand on solid footing.

That’s why Noynoy supporters stress his lineage, that he is the son of Ninoy and Cory. But they mention that not because they think Noynoy can approximate his father’s intelligence or her mother’s heroic bent. What makes his lineage relevant, they say, is that the leadership of Noynoy’s parents was integrity-driven.

Different times call for different leaders. Winston Churchill was prime minister during World War II because his country needed his traits in that crucial time. Many don’t believe Noynoy can make this nation “great again.” But if the goal is to fight corruption in the bureaucracy, having a president with surefire credibility can be a good start.

(khanwens@yahoo.com/ my blog: cebuano.wordpress.com)