A study in ethical contrasts


LAST WEEK, Japan’s economy minister Akira Amari resigned under a cloud of controversy, after having been hit with accusations that he accepted $101,000 in bribes from a construction firm in exchange for favors in government contracts.

Just prior to Amari’s resignation, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe made a public statement pledging firm support for his embattled economic guru, but demanded that Amari explain his side to address the allegations that had been made in an investigative report by a tabloid newspaper in Japan.

While maintaining his innocence, Amari instead resigned, saying the scandal had damaged his credibility and compromised his focus on his job. He apologized for having become a distraction.

His replacement came quickly in the person of Nobutera Ishihara, a career politician who has held several different cabinet posts in the Abe government.

What is remarkable is the quick and smooth transition from Amari’s resignation and replacement as handled by Abe and his party. If there was one person in the incumbent Japanese government who could have been described legitimately as indispensable, it was probably Amari. He was Japan’s key representative in the recently concluded Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement, and played a key role in the US-led trade pact. Amari was also the most competent of the various managers of ‘Abenomics,’ the economic program of the Prime Minister. His departure under any circumstances is seen as a huge blow to PM Abe; leaving under a cloud of suspicion just makes it worse.

Meanwhile, our own government is twisting itself into rhetorical and legal knots in an effort to cover for Transportation Secretary Joseph Emilio Abaya, whose record of gross incompetence in managing the nation’s infrastructure – in particular, Metro Manila’s troubled light rail system – has been blackened even more by the presentation of enough evidence of wrongdoing involving the MRT’s latest questionable maintenance contract in the Senate hearings. The Senate committee handling the questioning, led by Senator and presidential aspirant Grace Poe-Llamanzares, apparently feels a criminal investigation of Abaya is in order.

Abaya is anything but vital to the Aquino government; if anything, he has been a handicap. Yet, not only does he not have the good manners to step down – even temporarily – to clear up his potential legal woes and restore at least a little public confidence in the DOTC, his boss in the Palace will do anything to keep him on board, even in the face of growing public wrath. The counter-argument offered by the Administration via Communications undersecretary Manuel Quezon 3rd over the weekend was a monumental non sequitur: Instead of calling for criminal charges, Quezon said, Ms. Llamanzares should be “understanding and supporting the reforms being carried out by the government.”

In Japan, the Administration accepts a potentially disastrous change in personnel without drama because it is the right thing to do, regardless of the consequences to the government or its programs. In the Philippines, every effort is made to retain a potentially disastrous, obviously unreliable, and completely replaceable official, regardless of the consequences to the people the government is supposed to be serving, because what’s right is only right if it has some advantage to the regime.


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  1. Leodegardo Pruna on

    Ineptness, stupidity, craziness are hallmarks of P-Noy’s administration. God bless the Philippines.

  2. It boils down to leadership! If our leaders, like Abaya, are ineffective and stayed on even when their names are tarnished, it reflects how ineffective their immediate boss – the President. Japanese don’t want to lose face and integrity/honor is very important to them; they even perform hara-kiri to die with honor or as a form of capital punishment who had committed serious offenses, or performed because they had brought shame to themselves.

  3. A knowledge the common people have observed for long. Thanks for taking interest though in this matter. How ironic our political landscape isn’t it? Hope, the educated people can help educate the greater people who are easily influenced or duped by politicians and their machinery so we can transform our country into a nation of the people and not by the elite class only.

  4. Let’s face it, MORALITY and INTEGRITY does not exist in PHILIPPINE Government.
    The way they are covering for people’s ineptitude, the Philippine government is thereby promoting and condoning incompetence, mediocrity and stupidity as a norm in government.

  5. you have it spot on but its always been this way in the philippines & will remain so for a long time yet. The stupidity of so many things from all filipino governments never fails to amaze me. Nothing is ever their fault & they are all better than everyone else. But that better than other works out all through filipino society still. I just had it in the uk in having to pay my yearly fee at the Philippine embassy in london. They didnt even know what an i-card is. I told them we all have to pay a 310P fee each year. They asked how much that was in pounds & i said you live & work in the uk & you dont know the exchange rate of the peso. Then on trying to talk of this with other english guys in the waiting room the ambassador asked me to leave as i was upsetting the other people there, well an english guy said he is talking to me & upsetting no one, she then said i was arguementitive, i said im not even talking to you im talking to this guy & then she left it at that. They are all to full of themselves & still treat the filipino like a subservient but foreigners wont stand for it.