EDITORIAL - How not to set a fine diplomatic example

The Freeman

Because of the Philippines's highly contentious maritime dispute with China over the South China Sea, Foreign Affairs Secretary Perfecto Yasay is probably the only member of the new Duterte Cabinet who got shoved right off the bat into the fire. He never had time to acclimatize. If "hit the ground running" had to have any personification, it had to be Yasay.

As to whether Yasay is doing a good job of the responsibilities he had to perform right on Day One, that is a matter of some discussion, even debate. Indeed, there had been rumors that Yasay was already on his way out because of his allegedly unsatisfactory handling of the China issue, rumors that prompted President Duterte to go on television to deny.

Yasay had been a reluctant player, to begin with, a fact that Duterte himself confirmed when he said he had to plead with Yasay to join him, at least for a year. Yasay was supposed to go back to a waiting job in the United States after the election, where he helped his friend Duterte win. The foreign affairs portfolio is supposed to be for the taking of Duterte's runningmate, senator Alan Peter Cayetano, if he wants it after a one-year appointment ban lapses.

But while the performance of Yasay is open to discussion, even debate, there are certain criticisms that are patently foul owing to the direction from which they are coming from. Specifically, it is out-of-line, uncalled for, and leaves a bad taste in the mouth for Yasay to be criticized by his immediate predecessor, for Aquino administration foreign secretary Albert del Rosario.

Making it worse is that del Rosario was joined by another Aquino official, former Philippine ambassador to the US Jose Cuisia. How horribly undiplomatic can these two diplomats get. Have these two former Aquino officials forgotten that when it comes to projecting the country on foreign policy issues, it is always best to put up the face of unity?

If del Rosario and Cuisia do not like the way Yasay is handling things, as former trustees of the country's foreign policy and experts of the same field, they could have easily met with Yasay to counsel him in the nation's interest. But no they did not. Instead they went public with their criticisms, thereby damaging not Yasay but the Philippine position on China.

Having served under the Aquino administration, del Rosario and Cuisia have apparently assumed some of the bad traits of Aquino who, despite being president, never acquired the finesse of leadership. In his time, Aquino mistook discourteousness with honesty and was known to scold people in public when he could have shown displeasure in some other way. As it turned out sadly in the case of del Rosario and Cuisia, Aquino was a very effective teacher.

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