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Who will believe..

Fatou Bensouda (cropped)that Loida Nicolas-Lewis personally spoke with the ICC (link)? Some Pinoys maybe, who think the whole world works like their government, where pork barrel queen Janet Lim-Napoles’ lawyer even was at a cabinet meeting (link)! Well, there is Harry Roque who says “she is rich” (link) and Duterte – the man who invented bank account numbers of Senator Trillanes (link) – even claims he was able to tap the phone of ICC prosecutor Bensouda. The second-rate prosecutor, whose political career was jump-started by being appointed by Cory on request of his mother, even puts the qualification of Bensouda in doubt. Some Philippine articles do not mention her work at the ICTR (International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda), a pioneering tribunal dealing with war crimes (link) that happened in 1994 when the Tutsi and Hutu (not Yellowtard and Dutertard) tribes started killing each other.

Very superstitious..

Of course many Filipinos have a certain picture of Africa and a superiority complex towards blacks. What also was spread a lot on the usual troll networks was the fact that Loida Nicolas-Lewis’ deceased husband Reginald Lewis (link) was a black American billionaire. So a certain crowd is probably ready to believe anything Duterte and his group say without proof and pooh-pooh those who ask for any proof. And yes, many are probably even ready to believe that the Philippines leaving the ICC is the “beginning of the end” for the latter (link). Where does this sense of having the world revolve around the Philippines come from? It is really just one of many Asian countries. Could it be that its early role in the UN, as a founding member and a darling of the United States, made Filipinos think their country was special? Its being independent earlier than most neighbors?

“No reaction” from Fatou Bensouda might even be construed by some Filipinos as an admission of guilt – the Filipino street mentality often goes by assumptions suitable to a barangay where all gossip is immediately heard and those who do not immediately react to gossip are probably guilty. There was no strong reaction, for example, by Mar Roxas when troll networks during the election spread the malicious rumor that he had stolen Yolanda funds. His being a bit too aloof and above the fray could have made some people assume, yes, he did it. Recent articles prove otherwise (link).

Well, Fatou Bensouda will probably not be shocked, as there are similar things on her continent. Even people assumed to be witches and then hurt by neighbors. But I had a Filipina ex-girlfriend  (college-educated!) who told me that certain neighbors in her hometown were known as aswang. There are also things I have read about VACC and others who have no objection with evidence being planted on people who are “known to be guilty”. Known in what way? Because it is assumed? The history of urban legends in Manila (link) calls for caution. Cats in siopao, worms in burgers.

Lost respect..

The Philippines did have international respect in the beginning. For one thing, Dr. Jose Rizal is known and respected in most of Asia and inspired other nations in their quest for independence. Second, the country was richer than even South Korea just after the war. Third, the likes of Magsaysay and Garcia interacted a lot with their Asian colleagues, within SEATO for example. Probably the rudeness of some Filipinos who looked down on fellow Asians for speaking little English was later. Not to mention the junketeers who looked down on Europeans for the same.

There was of course back then the glorious feeling of being on the right side – the American side – and lots of Filipinos working for US Forces, US Embassies worldwide. But from that crowd, there were people who told me that the willingness to employ Filipinos went down the moment US bases were told to leave the Philippines. One wonders what all the tirades of the present administration against the UN will mean for the willingness to employ Filipinos there, up to now still quite high. And often working for Western bosses – Americans, British, French. They also read the papers.

And the BPO industry in the Philippines which mainly serves Western countries. A German who managed a major BPO outfit in Manila once said (I heard this in my circles over here) that the main good thing about Filipinos is that they are highly Westernized. There is an aspect of TRUST in this. BPO firms also manage sensitive data. Lose that trust, especially by being perceived as being way too close to a country with a reputation for stealing both intellectual property and confidential information (China) and you lose business. This can happen very gradually.  But with finality.

Trust forfeited..

Because the world usually doesn’t work like among many Filipino politicians who play a low-down game with one another, smile as if nothing happened and on to the next round. As if fooling others was just as much a harmless game as trying to grab a basketball from the other team. Their fault if they didn’t protect the ball well or dribble right. There are things you don’t do, things not forgotten. Fraport and NAIA-3 (link) may be ancient history to Filipinos, but not to Germans or Europeans. This is why I was surprised that Aquino did manage to get EU firms to invest in the Philippines!

Probably more of a let’s see, let’s put a few calculated bets there, might get better than before. Possibly a bit like the trust given to someone who is let out on parole. Has the parolee relapsed? There are still a lot of EU firms in the Philippines. Well, they will not withdraw their engagement. Not at once. The European mentality is long-term and strategic. But they may place more bets on places like Vietnam and Indonesia now. The risk of shakedowns in favor of Chinese partners might figure into the equation – see what is happening in Boracay, or with the possible 3rd telco player!

Past reputation

Foreign Secretary Cayetano speaks with an Ateneo accent, which is vaguely remiscent of the New York state accent the first American Jesuits who came to the Philippines had. High prestige in the Philippines, indicative of upper class. At the UN, he may still think he people remember Romulo, the Philippine Foreign Secretary who said “I want that dot!” – on the UN logo when it was created. But a country that sets aside a UNCLOS ruling in its favor to deal with those who grab its islands, slaps its former allies in the face, and disrespects agreements (ICC) it once wanted to belong to?

Coming back

Talking down to everybody because one thinks one is the bird on top of the new carabao – China? China speaks as if its future global hegemony is already a done deal. That is far from sure. And if it turns out otherwise, I doubt that other nations will be like Filipino politicians, smile and it’s OK. The Philippines might have to fall in line behind other partners who have proven greater reliability. Maybe even behind African countries it still looks down on now. But looking down on now more advanced Asian neighbors was not too long ago either. Pride comes before the fall, Proverbs 16:18.

Irineo B. R. Salazar
München, 24 March 2018

 

 

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