The root cause of much Filipino failure is lack of objectivity and dispassionate analysis – Sachlichkeit in German. Sachlichkeit means concentrating on the matter at hand. Not on showing off like Marcos. Not on who is at fault like President Benigno Aquino III sometimes does, with all due respect. Not on whether someone is a former Marcos man or a proper Liberal Party member. Because Binay was anti-Marcos and pro-Cory, now what has he become? Erap, for all his mistakes, seems to have mellowed into someone who does care for his own country more than ever.
Sure, Germany has had its witch-hunts. Real witch burnings in the Middle Ages. An old German friend of mine says – he hates the Church – that priests burned mostly redheads because they probably refused to sleep with them. Summary courts – the Femegerichte – were feared even after the Middle Ages. The trial and execution of Milady in The Three Musketeers is an example of how these kind of courts used to work. The Nazis persecuted nearly everyone. So did the Stasi in East Germany. Seeing only your own side as right, without objectivity, is a trap that can lead to this.
Law and Order
The legend goes that Frederick the Great was being disturbed by the clatter of the mill sails and offered to buy the mill from its miller, Johann William Grävenitz. When he refused, the king is supposed to have threatened: “Does he not know that I can take the mill away from him by virtue of my royal power without paying one groschen for it?” Whereupon the miller is supposed to have replied: “Of course, your majesty, your majesty could easily do that, if – begging your pardon – it were not for the Supreme Court in Berlin.”
The real story was that in 1768 there was a legal dispute at another location over water rights and the remaining lease between Christian Arnold, the tenant of a mill in Pommerzig in the Neumark, and his landlord, the Count of Schmettau. After the miller was found guilty on two accounts, he appealed to Frederick the Great, who intervened in the ongoing proceedings in favour of the miller. Wrongly, as it turned out later. The king referred the case to the Berlin Court of Appeal, who once again ruled against the miller. Frederick the Great, then demanded a condemnation of the judges and their imprisonment in Spandau Citadel for their unjust judgments and thus precipitated an abuse of his name. This legal battle and the story of the Sanssouci miller were woven together in the legend and were intended to emphasize the king’s justice towards all his subjects. After the death of Frederick the Great, the case was reopened.
The legend therefore was that even then, royal power was superseded by the objectivity of the law. The reality was that royal power then was not always objective (sachlich) with regards to the law. Now how this applies to President Benigno Aquino III and his objectivity may depend on the observer. Joe America will say one thing, GRP another. I tend to agree 2/3 with JoeAm on this matter, 1/3 with GRP, and fully with myself of course. I think he has been a bit partial in some cases (Purisima), objective on others (Corona) and wishy-washy in some like holding on to Secretary Abaya.
A distanced look at the evidence regarding Frederick the Great of Prussia points to his having very possibly been gay. Now that did not impact on his leadership, which was excellent in its results. Now I don’t care about Aquino’s sex life. Nor do I care about that of Senate President Franklin Drilon, or that of former Chancellor Helmut Kohl. Or that of former German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle, who is admittedly gay and even took his partner with him on trips. Aquino’s performance counts. Here I might agree 80% with JoeAm, 20% with GRP. My evaluation is still ongoing.
Mehr Sein als Scheinmeans be more than you seem to be, and is attributed to King Frederick. It is very Protestant and very Prussian. The more Catholic it gets and the more south you go in German-speaking countries, the more they place importance on appearances. The Austrians especially the Viennese can be downright charming, Austrian and Bavarian villages have beautiful Baroque churches. Now in contrast to that, Northern Germany is austere. Berlin soil is mainly sand, Prussia was poor. It had to conquer other lands like agricultural Silesia – partly because it could not feed itself.
Now contrast that with Marcos, whom Lee Kuan Yew looked down upon for lacking true substance: “In Bali in 1976.. I was to discover that for him, the communiqué was the accomplishment itself; its implementation was secondary”. Marcos’ projects were often “built on sand” and rushed, his heavy borrowing and printing money finally impoverished the country: “He [Marcos] sent his minister for trade and industry, Bobby Ongpin, to ask me for a loan of $300-500 million to meet the interest payments. I looked him straight in the eye and said, ‘We will never see that money back.’ The MRT3 seems to have been a typical Marcos-style project started in Ramos’ time – rushed and done too cheaply, and the price is being paid now. The Philippines lived beyond its means under Marcos, not just Marcos and Imelda. I have mentioned that living beyond one’s means never leads to true modernity. Just white elephants, like the Bataan Nuclear Power Plant.
In a country that still can’t run a 17 kilometer elevated tram system properly, a nuclear power plant in an earthquake zone. Imagine Pinatubo in 1991 and Marcos still in power, BNPP running…
Predictability and Reliability
Recent Joe America articles criticize Peter Wallace. I criticize Peter Wallace too, for putting all the blame for the perceived unreliability of the Philippine government on President Aquino, while singing the praises of some other politicians. But what I do share with Peter Wallace is his criticism of the Philippines as having been (still being?) an unpredictable and unreliable partner.
Possibly Aquino is trying to fix things. Not always in the right way. Not always successfully I can see. But for example the debacle on NAIA3 really escalated during President Arroyo’s times. Secretary Abaya letting Vitangcol recommend a company that turned out to be owned by the latter’s uncle was definitely a blunder. In most countries, he would have to “fall on his sword” – resign. What I would not do is what some are doing and insinuating Abaya was in on the deal, or even Aquino. One cannot accuse people without a shred of proof, or even indications like with Binay.
Where I agree with Peter Wallace is that foreign direct investment is lacking. The true reasons may be better outlined than by him in this article by the Swiss Neue Zürcher Zeitung, a paper read by many bankers for its extreme objectivity. It says that most Philippine stocks are political papers, vulnerable to who is in power and connections. It also states that foreign direct investments are hampered, according to ADB, by three reasons: insufficient infrastructure compared to other countries in the region, lack of trust in the government and a relatively narrow industrial base. Now I hardly think that it was better in the Marcos era. There are rumors that Marcos often raised the bribes for potential contractors. The NZZ does see the progress made by Aquino. Now I prefer an honest government with a learning curve in terms of competence to a corrupt government. The European Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines has been publishing a weekly report on the Philippines since 2011. I still have to evaluate this source. European sources, especially Swiss ones except maybe FIFA’s Sepp Binay, ahem Blatter, are usually more objective than Filipino ones.
Legal certainty is a principle in national and international law which holds that the law must provide those subject to it with the ability to regulate their conduct. Legal certainty is internationally recognised as a central requirement for the rule of law. Now is legal certainty something that exists in the Philippines? Recent debates with regard to the Condonation Doctrine, as to be applied or not applied to the Binays, as well as whether Grace Poe is to be disqualified or not, make the Philippines look more like a country of legal uncertainty – sometimes it may even be a country where legal impunity is applied, meaning that those on the wrong side of power, less educated or poorer can lose a case. No need for impunity in the form of guns and goons if the law can be used. Now I do not subscribe to the point of view that Binays and Poe are victims of legal impunity. But it is easy for them to play that role in a country where the law was often a farce to conceal raw power. President Arroyo allegedly threatened Fraport boss Wilhelm Bender with arrest if he landed in Manila. Who does she think she is, and who he is?
Aquino is mainly seen as trustworthy, so other countries are giving him a chance I think. The Philippines is out on parole I would say, but not yet exonerated. The next years shall be crucial.
Irineo B. R. Salazar, München, 21 January 2016
P.S. 23 January 2016 – thank you Secretary Abaya for clarifying this, just saw it, so it should be given credit.
According to MRT General Manager Roman Buenafe, the signaling system is currently under contract with the joint venture of German company Schunk Bahn-und Industrietechnik GmbH and Filipino firm Comm Builders & Technology Phils. Corp. (SBI-CB&T JV).
After Friday’s glitches, Buenafe did not rule out the possibility of a sabotage of the train system’s operations. There is an an ongoing investigation on the MRT glitches, but Abaya said sabotage is not the main focus of the probe and that they are looking at all the possibilities.
“Just like any other credible and responsible investigation you look at all angles. There is no primary focus on sabotage — let’s make it clear, it is not the primary focus of the investigation. The primary focus of the investigation is to find out the real causes, if sabotage is ruled out then that is well and good.”
The Transport secretary said they will continue to deal with the German maintenance provider despite allegations of a sabotage.
“We should pay what is due to them, we should pay for the services rendered, we should pay for the parts delivered. We deal with them fairly and I think we should continue to engage them.”
It was not really helpful that Mr. Buenafe insinuated sabotage without a shred of proof or even indications, just a suspicion. If the Philippines is to deal with German companies on a long-term basis this is not really the right way. Germany has very little natural resources and no military power, therefore like Japan its main asset is the high quality worksmanship and good reputation of its companies. If there were proof or indications like in the Volkswagen emissions case in the United States, it would be a totally different matter. In this case Secretary Abaya was professional.