This is about a comment about Filipino priorities by Singaporean banker chempo at Joe America’s blog. It has made me seriously ask: what priorities does the Philippines have?

To fight corruption?

Merlion, Merlion Park, Singapore - 20130315-04This is the relevant part of chempo’s comment:

If the objective is to help fight corruption — I can name other priorities —
– Anti-Dynasty Act
– Banking Secrecy Act — repeal or amend to permit criminal investigations,
– Persons-with-criminal-records-cannot-sit-in-congress/senate- or- some- other- high- institutions Act,
– Anti-universal Sufferage Act — no person or institution can demand group endorsement of candidates in an election,
– Anti-Corruption Unit Act — set up an independent body with wide ranging powers to investigate.
– Anti-bloody-nonsense TRO Act
– Anti-Representation Act — charge all giver and taker, tax-disallow representation expenses.
– Anti-switching-of-parties-after-election Act
– Serious-Notarisation Act — have proper gazetted lawyers to do this, not in a side street that advertises “Notary Services” & “Photocopy Services” on the same sign board, parties need to appear personally with ID and proper attire (respect for the law and a solemn event) — cannot send messengers.
ETC ETC ETC — give me time, I can give you 100 priorities.

To dispense justice?

Well, I answered and named two more priorities for the country:

1) Legal reform – the Criminal Code Draft of 2014 was just the beginning as is somewhere in that goddam lazy Congress.

2) Justice reform – Rizal said more than a hundred years ago that the reason why the English are respected in their possesions is their swift and speedy justice system. He was criticizing Spanish judges and the Penal Code of 1884 which is STILL today’s Filipino law.

To look good?

APEC 2015 TrafficTo be fair, the Congress and Senate have finished quite a few laws in the past years and the President signed them.  I did give credit to this here:

At least there is now a Philippine Competition Commission, meaning the Philippine Competition Act is being implemented. We worried about IRRs some months ago.

BUT I have a caveat – I read that Philippines EU FTA (free trade agreement) talks have started. Guess what one requirement of the EU was for FTA – you got it, competition legislation and implementation. We Filipinos – me included – need pressure to get moving.

A few reactions

Joe America’s answer – for which one must remember that former NEDA Secretary Balicasan, a man of high competence and integrity, is now heading the Philippine Competition Commision:

Yes, I was impressed that they met the deadlines. Commission formed, a good data-oriented, analytical head appointed. Saved me a blog article to complain about it, because I was tracking it. Kudos to both Aquinos, senatorial and presidential.

In the publications of the Konrad Adenauer Foundation in Manila there is an an article about Aquino’s 2015 SONA which specifically mention the Philippine Competition Act:

The Philippines has seen steady economic growth in the past years. In addition to that, the new Competition Act is a positive signal for international investors.
Back to the beginning of chempo’s comment, which I quote which it is appropriate in this context:
We have to ask ourselves first and foremost, what is the objective of the FOI in the case of Philippines? My base feeling is it’s just a showpiece — to show the world there, we too now have an FOI. We have joined the league of “clean” nations.

Figuring out things

Bmw welt + headquaterMy New Year article mentions the clean and dirty kitchen in the houses of those Filipinos who can afford it:

Because of colonialism, the Philippines have had the clean and dirty kitchen everywhere. The clean kitchen to be shown to guests, especially foreigners, and the dirty kitchen were the maids cook. Daang Matuwid was theoretically about honesty, about cleaning up the dirty kitchen. The Ombudsman seems to be hyperactive in smoking out corruption; BIR seems to have been cleaned while Customs remains a problem. And yes, charges were pressed in the Tanim-Bala scam. BBL was not handled well, and has failed. The MRT and Manila traffic not handled with enough foresight.

Walls were built to hide squatters from both visitors of the UNCTAD V conference in Manila during Marcos times, and the Pope. Does it sound similar to some things that happened this year? Yes. There are more honest Filipinos now than then in my opinion, but brutal honesty must increase. Not to hit back at “the other side”, but to solve the many problems the country has. The country is in the process of maturing, and maturity means adressing issues without resorting to passive-aggressive sullenness or denial on one side and aggressive blaming on the other.

Get Real Philippines is looking at President Aquino’s dirty kitchen all the time, while ignoring Marcos’ much dirtier kitchen. President Aquino, by virtue of having been in the United States and his mother having been there too, does have a bit of an American attitude about kitchens I think. Just like some of Aquino’s supporters have bit of an American attitude to dogs. Could this be the problem of Daang Matuwid, and most especially the Roxas campaign? The group that runs it is definitely well-meaning and seems to know what it is doing at least in theory. But they live in the clean kitchen part of the country. The Fast Forward video ad of Mar Roxas shows it clearly. And Korina Sanchez nearly fits the stereotype of the old Apo Hiking Society Song “Ang Syota Kong Burgis” (my high-class girlfriend): di pupuwede, sakay sa jeepney, sobrang usok at sikip. She can’t rid a jeepney with me, it’s too smoky and crowded.

Has Mar Roxas ever taken the MRT to work from Cubao where he lives to DILG which is EDSA Corner Quezon Avenue? Former Interior Minister Günther Beckstein of Bavaria took the Tram No. 19 every day to work. Angela Merkel goes shopping in the evenings – accompanied by some security people of course – and cooks for her husband in the evening. To Filipinos who can’t believe this, much like Europeans did not believe Marco Polo when he came back: the thing about Beckstein I just remember, and about Angela Merkel is in TIME magazine – there you have a US source:

Unified Germany is a relatively new democracy. It has no finished official residence, and if it did, Merkel would continue to live in the central Berlin apartment she shares with her husband, whose name is on the buzzer. “I always show it to Latin American visitors,” says Wissmann, who was Transportation Minister when Merkel ran the environment department. “I don’t know if it’s 100 square meters or 120, but that’s for a world leader. She is living modestly.”

The most powerful woman in the world does her own grocery shopping, dragging a small security contingent to the German equivalent of Kroger’s. “If you have good luck, you meet her on a Friday afternoon at the supermarket buying a bottle of white wine and a fish for dinner for her and her husband,” says Wissmann. “That’s not a show.”

I did like Duterte a bit when I first heard about him, the fact that he dresses simply and talks to the people of Davao regularly. But some of his statements have shown that he is too much from the dirty kitchen of the Philippines. So what does this have to do with priorities? I can only quote one of my favorite movies. This is from the end of Demolition Man with Sylvester Stallone:

John Spartan: Whoa, Whoa. I’ll tell you what gonna do:
John Spartan: [to Chief Earle] Why don’t you get a little dirty?
John Spartan: [to Edgar] You a lot clean.
John Spartan: And somewhere in the middle… I don’t know. You’ll figure it out.
Alfredo Garcia: Fuckin’ A!
John Spartan: [impressed] Well put.

Irineo B. R. Salazar, München, 3. February 2016