By JOSE C. DE VENECIA JR.
FORMER SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE
My wife Gina and I hosted dinner for Ursula Mannle, Chairperson of the Hanns Seidel Foundation (HSF), a German political foundation, who is in the country to lead the 40th Anniversary celebration of HSF-Philippines.
Mannle, a respected woman leader in Germany, was a university professor for 34 years and member of the German parliament for more than 20 years before heading the Munich-based Hanns Seidel Foundation, which has offices in 65 countries worldwide.
We teased Professor Mannle that the Foundation is like a state, with “embassies” in 65 countries around the globe, including the Philippines. The Foundation’s current Resident Representative in the country is Gotz Heinicke, a lawyer. Her chief of staff Christian Ramet was a career diplomat in the German foreign service.
Heinicke’s predecessor was our good friend, the late Paul Schaefer, who served 27 years in the Philippines. “Don Pablo,” as we fondly called him, led the successful implementation of HSF’s various programs in the country and helped promote cooperation and friendship between the Foundation and the Filipino people. He was an adopted son of the Philippines and his widow Linda, is a Filipina.
Since establishing its office in Manila four decades ago, the HSF has helped contribute to socio-economic development in our country, liaisoning with democratic institutions, and promoting partnership between government, the private sector and the Filipino people. Among its celebrated projects in the Philippines are the Dual Technology Program and the Philippine Countryside Program.
The Dual Technology Program or Dualtech was established in 1982 to help alleviate poverty through vocational education and as a response to the then lack of skilled manpower needed by the industries. Since its inception, the Dualtech Center has produced more than 20,000 graduates for its short-term courses and over 10,000 graduates for its two-year course.
On the other hand, the Philippine Countryside Program has developed, expanded, and helped provide funding to various cooperatives throughout the country, which contributed to improving living standards of the poor and marginalized sectors in the countryside.
The Hanns Seidel Foundation was also one of our co-organizers together with the Konrad Adenauer Stiftung, also of Germany, when we founded ICAPP, the International Conference of Asian Political Parties, in the year 2000, and which now represents some 350 ruling, opposition and independent political parties from 52 countries in Asia. ICAPP will have its 20th Anniversary in Manila in 2020 and we are inviting President Rodrigo Duterte and several heads of government to grace the occasion.
We just spoke to Russian Ambassador Igor Khovaev to see if we could invite Russian President Vladimir Putin to address the conference, perhaps on his first visit to Southeast Asia.
We reminisced with Chairperson Mannle that when we, in partnership with the HSF, were organizing ICAPP in Manila 19 years ago, many thought that it was not possible to bring together the competing ruling, opposition and independent political parties from West Asia, East Asia, Northeast Asia, Southeast Asia, South Asia, and Central Asia, representing pro-Western, Communist, or neutral governments. Few believed we could put together political parties with pronounced different ideologies and persuasions under one roof in a common political house. In Europe, political parties bond together largely according to their leanings, leftist, rightist, or centrist.
Well, we were happy and proud to tell her that from 46 political parties from 20 countries when we founded ICAPP in Manila in September, 2000, our organization now has 352 political party-members from 52 Asian countries.
We also took the opportunity to invite Chairperson Mannle and the Hanns Seidel Foundation to participate in the 20th Founding Anniversary of ICAPP to be held in the land of its birth, Manila, in November next year, 2020. We anticipate several heads of government who have acknowledged, allied or hosted ICAPP over the years.
When we were Speaker, the House of Representatives awarded the Congressional Medal Achievement to the HSF for its many contributions to the Philippines and the Filipino people.
Chairperson Mannle said the HSF was greatly honored to have received the award in 2004.
Established in 1967, the Foundation was named in honor of the remarkable German leader Dr. Hanns Seidel, who served as Member of Parliament, Minister of Economics, then Prime Minister of Bavaria from 1957 to 1960. He was also one of the founding fathers of the Christian Social Union (CSU), a Christian democratic and conservative political party in Germany.
The CSU’s larger sister organization in Germany is the Christian Democratic Union (CDU), which is currently headed by the globally regarded German Chancellor Angela Merkel, and which produced other great German postwar chancellors like Konrad Adenauer and Helmut Kohl.
In our short statement at the dinner for Ursula Mannle, we mentioned our distinguished colleagues in the launching of our organization and in the service of Christian and Muslim democracy in the Philippines, who are now all gone: Raul Manglapus, who was foreign minister, senator, and a World War II hero; Luis Lagdameo, transportation and communications secretary; and noteworthy ambassadors Alberto Pedrosa, Thelmo Cunanan, and Jose Romero.
We added “Former President Fidel Ramos and others are still carrying on.”