MALAYBALAY CITY (MindaNews/19 February) – Initially recalcitrant, German President Christian Wulff eventually resigned over allegations of corruption involving a dubious home loan even while maintaining he has done no wrong, the BBC reported on Friday, February 17.
Wulff, who had been president for less than two years, was a personal choice of Chancellor Angela Merkel, who expressed regrets over his resignation.
Merkel quoted the embattled Wulff as having said he had done nothing illegal despite his decision “stepping back from office, from service to the people.” Apparently, he quit to spare the chancellor from further trouble.
Merkel, although quite popular on the home front, is battling the eurozone debt crisis, and having Wulff remain president might erode her high approval rating.
Here’s what Wulff said in a brief statement as reported by BBC:
“The developments of the past few days and weeks have shown that [the German people’s] trust and thus my effectiveness have been seriously damaged. For this reason it is no longer possible for me to exercise the office of president at home and abroad as required.”
Like Renato C. Corona, the impeached Chief Justice of the Philippine Supreme Court, Wulff is embroiled in a controversial financial transaction – a low interest loan of 500,000 euros or roughly $649,000 from the wife of a wealthy businessman in October 2008 while prime minister of Lower Saxony.
Wulff had attempted to stop the Bild newspaper from publishing the story, although he had already apologized to its chief editor Kai Diekmann, the BBC said, adding “German media say the crisis is unprecedented in post-war Germany.”
Reports said Wulff did not disclose the loan before he became president. Moreover, he defended his act by saying, “I would not like to be president of a country in which you can no longer borrow money from a friend.”
The amount of Wulff’s loan is not the issue but the possible quid pro quo involved in the low interest deal. In fact, the same BBC report he was also alleged to have received political favors and free holidays from business executives.
Wulff worsened his own lot by trying to kill the story [about his controversial loan], an act which is viewed as an attack on press freedom.
Compare Wulff’s conduct with that of Corona in as far as financial transactions are concerned. The lower interest – 4 percent or 1 percent lower than the usual bank rate [in Germany] – sparked suspicions and howls of protest that Wulff had acted improperly. Why can the same not be said of the huge discount that Corona received when he acquired a piece of prime real property?
Wulff said he had done nothing illegal. True, there is nothing illegal in receiving a loan at a lower interest. But as his critics rightly pointed out, it is improper for a President to do so.
True, no law was violated when the real property firm gave Corona a big discount for a condominium unit. Yet there are things higher than the law itself. Propriety is one of those things, as the German people are reminding us now, and as Wulff himself belatedly realized.
At least, Corona shares one thing with Wulff. The chief justice had tried to muzzle the media when he tried to stop them from revealing the contents of his statements of assets, liabilities and net worth, which have turned out to be grossly understated. (MindaViews is the opinion section of MindaNews. H. Marcos C. Mordeno can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)