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November 30, 2000

From Our Correspondent: Hirohito and the War
A conversation with biographer Herbert Bix

From Our Correspondent: A Rough Road Ahead
Bad news for the Philippines - and some others

From Our Correspondent: Making Enemies
Indonesia needs friends. So why is it picking fights?

Asiaweek Time Asia Now Asiaweek story

NOVEMBER 5, 1999 VOL. 25 NO. 44

Edwin Tuyay for Asiaweek
P H I L I P P I N E S:
Manuel Roxas II
Michael Defensor

Manuel Roxas II
Born 1957
Congressman Manuel Roxas II did not expect to maneuver into elected office when he did. Investment banking was his game. He was based in New York, the world's financial capital, and thrived on making multi-million-dollar deals for a prestigious firm. At that juncture, having lived in the U.S. for more than a decade, Roxas appeared set for a career very different from the family tradition of political leadership. His grandfather, Manuel Roxas, was the first president of the Republic. His father, Gerardo Sr., had been a stalwart in the House of Representatives and a presidential contender whose hopes were dashed by Ferdinand Marcos's declaration of martial law. The torch was passed to Roxas's younger brother, Gerardo Jr., who was a legislator until his untimely death from cancer in 1993.

A new breed of politicians and activists are ready to break the shackles of the past, here listed by country:

The People Power Century
Combining idealism and pragmatic political instincts, these leaders are repudiating politics-as-usual

Hong Kong Leung Chun-ying

India Priyanka Gandhi Vadra and Chandrababu Naidu

Indonesia Andi Mallarangeng, Munir, and Emmy Hafild

Japan Noda Seiko, Shii Kazuo and Watanabe Yoshimi

Malaysia Hishammuddin Tun Hussein and Lim Guan Eng

Philippines Manuel Roxas II and Michael Defensor

Singapore Teo Chee Hean and George Yeo

South Korea Choo Mi Ae, Kim Min Seok and Nam Kyung Pil

Taiwan Ma Ying-jeou and Chen Shui-bian

Thailand Chaturon Chaisang and Abhisit Vejjajiva

Business & Finance
Journeying Beyond the Crisis
Born amidst unparalleled prosperity and tempered by adversity, a new generation of business leaders is poised to take the region to new levels of success in banking, commerce and industry

Suddenly, Roxas found himself picking up the pieces of that tragedy and became his generation's bearer of the Roxas political legacy. He bade farewell to his life in international finance and went home to the family bailiwick in central Philippines. Roxas won his late sibling's place in the lower chamber and got down to business. "It is easier to be in the private sector and [from the comfort of your boardroom] carp about how inefficient and corrupt the government is," he said. Getting to work, he rapidly learned the political ropes. Among his peers, he became known for his ability to tackle the issues of the day, a tenacity in pushing for results and the dynamism he brought to the job. In July 1998, those very attributes helped Roxas win his current post as the influential house majority floor leader.

"Investment banking is about 'Let's make a deal,' while politics is the art of what's possible," he says. In mastering his craft, Roxas would like to see feudalistic patronage mechanisms someday be replaced with a more people-empowered political environment. He believes the rise of non-governmental organizations as well as better education are key to such a progression. For him, one of his most important achievements is putting through a law designed to uncouple school funding from a political-behest system by introducing a formula that allocates money according to student population. It will hopefully allow education money to flow better. He is in the third and final term allowed a congressman. Already he is exploring public service options for the future. What is Roxas's next move? An astute chess player, he doesn't want to say much just yet. But for sure politics remains very much on the board.

Edwin Tuyay for Asiaweek
Michael Defensor
Born 1969

As a rookie in the legislature, Michael Defensor ran afoul of a powerful veteran lawmaker. The older man accused him of not being a team player. Defensor, then 25, had turned down a hefty bribe and made the attempt public. The colleague told him to "be more charitable" and not to try to be the hero at the expense of others. It was suggested that Defensor had not been the only lawmaker offered grease money in connection with a lucrative highway contract. "I'll always remember that incident," says Defensor. "It taught me about the strong bond between big economic interests and politics." He was too stunned to react to that confrontation in his early days in congress. But since then, Defensor, now 30, has been an outspoken anti-corruption crusader and an advocate for good government.

To anyone who will listen the ex-student activist laments that a sizable 30% chunk of the Philippines' national budget is wasted on graft. The dishonesty occurs on all levels: from transactions involving the purchase of pens to the awarding of major infrastructure projects. Aside from condemning the practice, Defensor wants to implement better systems of operation that lessen the opportunities for corruption. One is to tighten the rein on billing methods. "He takes his job seriously," says a former professor. When the young lawmaker is not joining street protests against vested interests or carrying out his regular congressional duties, he is completing his Master's in public administration at the University of the Philippines.

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