Ellen Tordesillas

MVP’s intriguing Christmas Party remark about Secretary del Rosario

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At the Christmas Party of Metro Pacific Investment Corporation last month at J.W. Marriott Hotel in Hongkong, the company’s chairman, Manuel V. Pangilinan (MVP) made special mention of Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario saying, “he will soon be rejoining us in the private sector.”

 

MVP’s remark intrigued other guests who asked each other, “Why, is he resigning?”

(Del Rosario’s statement on this article released in Malacañang: “In my talks with my trusted friend Manny Pangilinan, in December, he is fully supportive of my decision to continue in public service for as long as the President wishes for me to do so.”)

Actually, del Rosario had resigned twice in his almost three years as foreign secretary. (He served as ambassador to the United States during the time of Gloria Arroyo.) The first was in June 2012 after the standoff with China at Scarborough Shoal (also known as Bajo de Masinloc or Panatag shoal) which brought into the picture, much to the resentment of del Rosario, Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV.

Sources close to Malacañang said President Aquino’s reaction was,he was not acting on any cabinet resignations before the May 2013 elections.

Del Rosario again offered to resign after he was told by another cabinet official that the President was displeased with his statement of concern over how Malaysia was maltreating Filipinos during the Lahad Datu, Sabah incident February last year when the followers of the late Sultan Jamalul Kiram III took a stand in the coastal village in Sabah asserting the claim to the territory.

Aquino was more concerned about not displeasing Malaysia, which is brokering the peace talks with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, than protecting the human rights of Filipinos in Sabah, which the Philippines is also claiming to be part of its territory.

It’s not known whether the Malacañang official relayed Del Rosario’s second offer to resign to the President.

Foreign Affairs is not one of Aquino’s strong points. Thus, it is important that his foreign secretary is competent. He did not have that in the first year of his administration because his sisters, especially Pinky Abellada, insisted on retaining Gloria Arroyo’s foreign secretary, Alberto Romulo, citing family friendship.

The sisters’ insistence of Romulo compelled the President to take back his offer (which was accepted) to be foreign secretary to former Trade Secretary Juan B. Santos, who settled for the chairmanship of the Social Security System.

Provided with a golden parachute as MPIC board advisor, Romulo was finally let go in February 2011.

Administratively, Del Rosario is doing well in the DFA. He is credited for strengthening the career system especially in ambassadorial postings.

The problem with Del Rosario is his blatantly pro-US and anti-China stand. His strategy of “shaming” China in regional and international arena (calling China “duplicitous”) thinking that it would pressure the economic giant into withdrawing from disputed territories has not been effective and has in fact adversely affected the country’s trade, tourism, and labor.

Aquino has realized that relations with China can’t move forward with Del Rosario as foreign secretary. This must have been discussed among his closest advisers because immediately after the May elections last year, Budget Secretary Butch Abad asked Santos if he would be willing to transfer to the DFA. Santos said, “No.”

Sources said the President is eyeing a career foreign affairs officer to be at the helm of the DFA.

But even with these exploratory behind-the-scenes moves, as long as Del Rosario wants to be in government,he will stay in the DFA.

Aquino does not fire officials. A Malacañang source said it has something to do with the traumatic experience of his mother with the suicide of her then Finance Secretary Jaime Ongpin amid cabinet disagreements.
Don’t expect any changes in the cabinet despite the involvement of some of them in the Jenny Napoles pork barrel scam.

After the devastation of Yolanda and his satisfaction rating still “good”, why would Aquino rock the boat with cabinet changes? In fact he said he will be pressuring them less this year and give them “ a little more breathing room” for fear that they would suffer from burnout.

 

Expect more of the same.

The Filipino Express

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