BY REY O. ARCILLA
‘With Tripoli now under siege by Libyan rebels, we hope and pray our nationals and DFA personnel there come to no harm.’
PRESIDENT Noynoy Aquino’s state visit to China at the end of this month will be a first of sorts.
It will be the first time a president of the Philippines will be making his first state visit to a major power other than the United States. Noynoy’s trip to the US last year was billed principally as a trip to the United Nations. All he got from his US counterpart at that time was a 7-minute hello and goodbye encounter. Till today, he hasn’t gotten an invitation for an official or state visit to Washington.
What does this mean? It simply means that we no longer figure prominently among the priority client-states of the US. True, President Barack Hussein Obama has had his hands full with all kinds of politico-economic and security problems. But that has not deterred him from receiving other Third World leaders in the last two and a half years.
Is it good or bad for us? It is good provided our so-called leaders realize it. And accept it. That way, their thought processes would be geared towards crafting an independent foreign policy as mandated by the Constitution and attaining self-reliance.
Last week, I said that Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario sent his favorite future ex-undersecretary Rafael Seguis to Syria to assist our nationals in that troubled country.
Seguis never made it to Syria. He got stuck in Libya where he went first to inform our embassy staff there that they were being recalled to the Home Office not later than today (August 23).
Unfortunately, it looks like neither they nor Seguis will be able to leave Tripoli as planned. Seguis is still in Tripoli as of this writing (August 22). He has already made representation with the Libyan Foreign Ministry’s protocol office last week to help him, and I suppose the entire embassy staff, get out, to no avail.
Tripoli is now under siege by the Libyan rebels who have, in fact, taken over Green Square (to be re-named Martyr’s Square) in the capital. We can only hope and pray that Seguis and the embassy staff will not come to any harm and will be able to leave the place soon. Our prayers also go to our nationals who have previously opted to remain in Libya, against our government’s advice.
In the meantime, Del Rosario was constrained to send Undersecretary Esteban Conejos who is in charge of migrant workers’ affairs in the DFA to Syria.
Soon after Del Rosario took over the reins of the DFA early this year, he made lightning visits to Libya, Bahrain, Yemen and even to Syria when the situation in that country was somewhat still stable.
This time, I half expected Del Rosario to demonstrate once again his concern for our modern day heroes by going to Syria himself. Maybe he would have gone himself were it not for a meeting of a rather obscure grouping called Forum for East Asia-Latin America Cooperation (FEALAC) in Buenos Aires, Argentina. From there, he will visit Brazil up to late this week. He has to be back in Manila in time for Noynoy’s trip to China.
At the rate Del Rosario goes on foreign trips, someone just might be tempted to tear down that giant smiley he had installed on the front entrance of the DFA building. No one I have spoken to in the DFA or elsewhere thinks it is appropriate in a foreign office. Absolutely out of place! If he has any doubt about its inappropriateness, it may be a good idea to ask his constituents about it in a referendum.
A group of DFA insiders wrote:
“Before anything else, please allow us to express our profound appreciation to you for looking after the interests of the career foreign service corps. Please forgive us for choosing to hide behind the name (……..) but we would like to assure you that we are career officers and staff of the Department of Foreign Affairs who also only want the best for the Department and its personnel. The senior diplomats among us are known to you while the others entered the DFA after you have left but we all share most of the sentiments you have been expressing in your column. In due time, we will surface to fill the void left by the silence of UNIFORS and DFAPA and serve as the real voice of the career corps. In the meantime, we would like to seek your assistance through your column in righting the wrongs and making things better for the DFA.
“One of the issues which we hope you would continue to take up is that of Mr. Michael Macaraig. He should be unmasked for being the crook that he is. Where are the DFAPA funds? Why would he not turn over the funds to the new DFAPA leadership? Why would he not account for such funds? He has brought shame to the Department with his appearance in Congress and should long have been purged from the rolls. Why can’t the Department do just that?
“His one-year suspension is just a slap on the wrist. Why is he being treated with kid gloves? Mr. Macaraig is trying to solicit the support of not only Congressman Bichara, chair of the House foreign (affairs) committee, but also President Aquino himself to have his suspension reversed. He is also calling for a referendum (on the DFAPA). We are attaching some documents which our members were able to get their hands on for your information. Please do not quote directly from the letters if you intend to use the information contained as this may compromise the security of some of our members.
“Another issue which we hope you would be able to raise is that of the OCA (Office of Consular Affairs) Building. We smell something fishy in the decision to transfer consular operations to a facility that was not originally configured for that purpose. Congressman Remulla should be cited for raising the issue during the DFA budget hearing. We should compel Secretary Del Rosario to look into the purchase. He promised to do that during his meeting with his Usecs and Assecs yesterday.”
Del Rosario has suspended Macaraig for one year, though no one could or would tell me if the suspension has already been implemented.
He has also adamantly refused to order Macaraig to turn over the DFA Personnel Association funds to its new president, claiming he has nothing to do with the association.
DFA personnel are involved and he has nothing to do with it?! Where is the logic there?
In an earlier column, I did draw the attention of Del Rosario to the alleged irregularity in the acquisition of the DFA consular office on Macapagal Boulevard. As seems to be his wont on controversial matters, however, he simply ignored it.
Now that he has reportedly assured no less than his undersecretaries and assistant secretaries to look into the matter, he no longer has a choice but to take appropriate action on it.
Perhaps he should ask the management of the Development Bank of the Philippines to help in probing the matter. DBP reportedly funded the purchase of the property.
Let’s watch what happens. (That’s “abangan” in Pilipino, Mr. Secretary. It is also Noynoy’s favorite song.) People would want to know if you adhere to the President’s “daang matuwid” dictum.
After what seemed like an extended hibernation, Senator Joker Arroyo finally woke up in a “jocular” mood.
He said Gloria Arroyo should be removed from the watch list in the Bureau of Immigration. He said Noynoy should follow what Imelda Marcos did when she allowed his late father, Ninoy, to seek medical treatment in the US in the early 1980s.
To begin with, being in the watch list does not bar Gloria from traveling abroad per se. All she has to do is notify the authorities before doing so. Moreover, Malacañang has already said she would be allowed to seek medical treatment abroad, if warranted.
On the other hand, the Marcoses didn’t want to take the risk of Ninoy dying in the country as it may trigger mass action against them. At the same time, they wanted nothing more than to get Ninoy out of the country to keep him from fomenting trouble from within.
So, there is absolutely no basis for comparison between the two situations.
Joker sometimes can be a joke without being funny.
Readers now tend to gloss over the Reminders portion of this column. To save space, I have decided to simply enumerate them in a single paragraph.
Reminders (for Noynoy’s action):
1) filing of charges against officials of the National Food Administration during Arroyo’s regime; 2) facilitating the investigation of rampant corruption in the military and police establishments; 3) expeditious action by the AFP on the case of Jonas Burgos; 4) preliminary investigation by the DOJ of the graft complaint filed late last year by Bayan Muna against Gloria Arroyo in connection with the aborted $329 million ZTE-NBN deal; and 5) investigation of reported anomalies in the GSIS during the watch of Winston Garcia.
From an internet friend:
To Maintain A Healthy Level Of Insanity (continuation)…
8. Specify that your drive-through order is “To Go”.
9. Sing along at the Opera.
10. Five days in advance, tell your friends you can’t attend their party because you have a headache.
11. When the money comes out the ATM, scream “I Won! I Won!”
12. When leaving the zoo, start running towards the parking lot, yelling “Run for your lives! They’re loose
13. Tell your children over dinner, “Due to the economy, we are going to have to let one of you go.”
And The Final Way To Keep A Healthy Level Of Insanity:
14. Pick up a box of condoms at the pharmacy, go to the counter and ask where the fitting room is.
Today is the 117th day of the fifth year of Jonas Burgos’ disappearance.
On August 30 (International Day of the Disappeared), at 3 p.m., there will be a presentation of MRS. B (a monologue on the life of Edith Burgos, mother of Jonas) starring Malou de Guzman, at Aldaba Hall, UP Diliman.