Diplomats: Unsung heroes
FILIPINO WORLDVIEW - Roberto R. Romulo (The Philippine Star) - March 8, 2019 - 12:00am

It has been almost a quarter century since I was in DFA. In late February, Cristina Ortega (solo photo) called inviting me to a small lunch last Friday.

Much to my surprise, there were many former diplomats (ambassadors and consul generals) who attended: Gee Benavides, Vicky Bataclan, Romy Manalo, Libran Cabactulan, Angie Sta. Catalina, Cher Aguinaldo, Cecille Rebong, Millie Santamaria, Eva Bettita, Ed Maglaya, Luz Palacios, Susan Castrence, Sonia Brady, Monina Rueca, Manding Fernandez, Toto Zaide, Weng Sanchez, Mindy and Louie Cruz. A total count of 19 diplomats, who were our worthy representatives, many assigned to multiple posts: Canberra, Bandar Seri Begawan, Brussels, Rome, Abu Dhabi, Ankara, Helsinki, New York, San Francisco, Berlin, Brasilia, Osaka, Seoul, Beijing, Shanghai, Geneva, Budapest, Hamburg, Vienna, Kuala Lumpur, Luxembourg, Singapore, ASEAN (Jakarta), European Union (Brussels), UNESCO (Paris) and United Nations (New York).

In one way or the other, they touched my own career and I am grateful for their support. In most instances, I learned from them. This get-together gave me an opportunity to apologize for what some categorized as my legendary temper. I admitted to them that I finally determined the reason for my being an ogre - I just quit smoking at that time. Still, it was no excuse.

We are all retired from DFA and we must look forward and not dwell on the past. It is my firm belief that we must never forget to support our country even when it is in the spirit of constructive criticism.

I cannot end this column without emphasizing the contribution of our career diplomats to our country’s well-being. Regrettably, their efforts have never been appreciated by Congress who control the DFA’s purse string. Behind the glamor, the lives of our diplomats abroad is a constant struggle to juggle their impecunious pay and allowances and an insufficient budget to maintain their personal stature and their offices to a standard that is at least – in appearance - equal to other diplomatic representations. They are, after all, the face of our country overseas. And in retirement, the struggle continues with low pension and thread-bare medical insurance coverage. That is why they – as all our dedicated public servants - are UNSUNG HEROES.

Tit for tat diplomacy

There was a recent statement of the presidential spokesman advising that the Philippines would not act recklessly on violations of Chinese citizens because the Chinese may reciprocate in kind on Filipinos in China. The Chinese embassy promptly reminded that Beijing adheres to the principle of non-interference in the internal affairs of other countries. Perhaps DFA Secretary Teodoro Locsin should volunteer to assist the spokesperson on the “do’s and dont’s” of diplomatic practice.

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