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Sunday, 6 November 2016

The Dutch bank and the Philippine problem! Or how things that you know and you can’t ignore, can haunt you on your way to more efficiency and higher profits.

President Rodrigo Duterte of the Philippines is an exceptional politician and a man of his word. No “empty promises mean empty hands” with this charismatic leader. He stands for his words and promises to the Philippine population. That is truly an exceptional quality for politicians, who are often accused of lying, making up stories and not keeping their promises.

Especially in the Philippines, this honesty can be considered as ‘refreshing’.  This country has a long history of utterly corrupted and greedy politicians, who used the country as their personal piggy bank in order to build up a family fortune of epic proportions. Hence, the Ferdinand and Imelda Marcos presidency as the most visible example.

At least…

A painful fact is, unfortunately, that President Rodrigo Duterte promised the Philippine population a relentless war on drugs and crime. A war that would not be fought through the normal legal system of police actions and subsequent jurisdiction via tough, but fair trials for defendants. No, under the pressure of the drugs abuse- and crime-fatigued Philippine population, Duterte promised the deployment of his version of martial law in his country. The same martial law that he already maintained as a mayor of Davao City, turning this city from the "murder capital of the country" into a peaceful city, according to Dutch Wikipedia.

Suspected criminals and drug abusers would not be brought to justice, but they would be executed at the spot, according to Duterte, and their bodies would be provided with a sign that showed their crimes: as a warning to the rest of the population.

And boy, did President Duterte keep his promise...

That is a conclusion, which we can holeheartedly draw with this president, after roughly six months of Duterte government and probably a couple of thousand street executions later. Mercy on behalf of criminals and drug abusers was definitely not a word in President Duterte’s dictionary of late and pictures of executed and tagged Philippine criminals have flooded the news desks of media all over the world.

And that was not all… Duterte offended the American president Barrack Obama on a number of occasions by – amongst others – calling him a “son of a b*tch” at one occasion only days before the American president would visit him, and – after administering a half-hearted apology out of ‘damage control’ a few days later – offending him again at another occasion a few weeks later.

On top of that, Duterte threatened to break down all the economic ties with the United States and put the recent plans of the previous Philippine government – to bring back the American army to their former Philippine military bases as soon as possible – in the fridge for eternity.

That the Philippine president means business with his plans to break down all economic and military ties with the Americans, is shown by the fact that he is openly flirting with president Xi Jinping of China, who suddenly seemed to have become Duterte’s new ‘Best Friend Forever’, in spite of their countries’ previous conflict about the Spratly Islands and the Chinese territorial claims upon this area.

And to make things even worse in American eyes, President Duterte is also starting a cautious love affair with Russian president Vladimir Putin, as he sees China, Russia and the Philippines as “a troika of friends in a battle against the United States”.

A cautious conclusion of all this could be that both the law, the legal situation for the Philippine citizens and the political stability in the Philippines are not in the most careful hands with Rodrigo Duterte as president. The fact that many Philippines consider him as a ‘blessing in disguise’, tired as they were from drug related crime in their cities and villages, does not change much about this unfortunately. As a matter of fact, Duterte is something like “an accident waiting to happen” in his relations with the Western world and regarding his own population.

This population might now adore him for his toughness on crime, but they could start feeling like a sitting duck when the extra-legal executions continue to happen and ‘guilt beyond reasonable doubt’ becomes definitely an expression from the past in this island nation.

And who says that all the people, who are killed in the name of the president, are really guilty?! Why should Duterte not abuse his nearly unlimited power to kill his political and societal opponents?! And who cares about one more body on an nearly endless stack?! A president ‘tough on crime’ is nice, until he starts to hurt you and your loved ones...

President Rodrigo Duterte reminds us all that we invented the legal systems and laws in our countries to prevent people from being shot or killed out of political and legal arbitrariness. Judge Dredd – “I don’t break the law… I am the law” – is a nice character for in a movie, but not as your president, isn’t he?!

Exactly this point is where the large Dutch bank ING Bank enters the scenery... 

In their endless hunt for better margins and more profit, ING is thinking about outsourcing large parts of their ICT and data infrastructure to… Manila, in the Philippines.

For a lot of economic and circumstancial reasons – probably the central position of the Philippines between the Western and the Eastern hemisphere and its ample availability of well-educated and relatively low-paid workers, with in general excellent knowledge of English – this could be an economically wise decision of ING bank and a decision that I could understand fullheartedly.

Nevertheless, from a political point of view this decision is close to a disaster, to these eyes.

ING Bank is not 'your everyday bank', but a large Dutch banking conglomerate with tens of thousands of workers in offices all around the globe. It belongs to the list of twenty so-called Global SIFI-banks (i.e. systemically important financial institution) and has a very high profile in the international business industry, as well as in the political world; almost like no other Dutch company, besides Shell and Unilever, has.

When such a bank decides to outsource a large share of its operations to a country where the most basic human rights of citizens (i.e. the right for a fair trial and the right to be considered innocent until proven guilty) are trampled by a gung ho-president, like Rodrigo Duterte, this is a strong signal to the rest of the world that human rights don’t count in the end.

And where the executive management of ING seemed reluctant to swallow this bitter political pill and immediately skip the “Manila plan”, the joint industrial council of ING Bank in The Netherlands made a crystalclear statement about that in the Dutch newspaper Telegraaf:

The joint industrial council (i.e. COR – Centrale OndernemingsRaad) of ING asked executive manager Nick Jue of ING The Netherlands to ‘take the situation regarding the human rights on the Philippines into consideration’ and to ‘reconsider the question whether it is sensible or not to outsource more activities and labour to Manilla’. This statement was written by the COR in a newsletter for the personnel, which is in the possession of the Telegraaf.

At ING not everybody feels comfortable with the outsourcing of services to a country where the president states in public that ‘he doesn’t care about human rights’.

The last paragraph must be the understatement of the year. And the red and bold paragraph states in very concealed phrases: “Are you out of your mind to even consider this wild idea, at this time with this president in charge?!”.

Of course I understand that ING Bank already invested millions (if not hundreds of millions) of Euro’s in the planning, preparation and execution of this Manilla operation. Millions that can be written off immediately, when this plan shipwrecks. And I also understand that this plan has probably started in a different time with different political leadership on the Philippines.

Nevertheless, as long as Rodrigo Duterte is in charge as president of the Philippines, this country is a no-go area for every serious corporation, that states to respect and endorse human rights.

ING Bank cannot hide itself behind the excuse of ‘not knowing the human rights situation in the Philippines’. Everybody and their sister knows, as Rodrigo Duterte never made a secret of this policy.

And so it is, that things that you know and you can’t ignore, can haunt you on your way to more efficiency and higher profits.

ING can and must do only one thing and that is pulling the plug out of this Philippines’ outsourcing plan! Every other outcome will cause the bank much political and societal damage... Scout’s honour!

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