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Warming the Bench

account_balanceMetro Opinion account_circleLeigh Bellosillo chat_bubble_outline0 Comments

Career foreign service officers have accepted the inevitable that the secretary of their department will, almost, always, be a political appointee.

Of the 35 foreign secretaries the country has had starting with Apolinario Mabini in 1899 with the title secretary of foreign relations, far and in between were actually FSO in the molds of the feisty blue-blooded diplomat Delia Albert.

It’s not that political nominees are more often less qualified than career diplomats. Of course, no one beats the widely recognized, widely acknowledged multifaceted career of quintessential Carlos P. Romulo, who first served as DFA secretary under President Elpidio Quirino in 1950-51. He served the longest of around 18 years from the administration of Diosdado Macapagal in 1965 up until the deposed dictator, Ferdinand E. Marcos in 1984.


It’s good news when Junior appointed Enrique Manalo, an FSO, to the post. Manalo was at the DFA helm for over two months as officer-in-charge in 2017 with the failure of former Securities and Exchange Commissioner Perfecto Yasay to get the nod of the powerful Commission on Appointments. 

The diplomat blood runs through Manalo’s viens. A seasoned FSO, he’s the son of Ambassador Rosario and Armando Manalo.

But, here’s the catch: the tittle-tattle going around the diplomatic circle is that Manalo is just warming the DFA bench. Rumour has that the portfolio is, reportedly, reserved for Junior’s cousin, Jose Manuel "Babe" del Gallego Romualdez, the country’s current ambassador to the US.

Maybe for certain decency, it won’t look good if there are two Romualdezes at the top posts of Junior. Cousin Ferdinand Martin Romualdez is the speaker of the House of Representatives. Though both are qualified, such borders on nepotism.  

Just on this topic, environmentalists welcome the designation of Maria Antonia “Toni” Yulo-Loyzaga as secretary of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, however, she’s a “kamag-anak incorporated.” She’s reportedly a cousin of Junior’s wifey. 

Back on warming the bench, I heard that Manalo, who was the Philippine permanent representative to the United Nations, will be turning 70 next Thursday, July 21. It is said that he will only be holding the fort for a year.

Another juicy tittle-tattle going around the diplomatic circle is the appointment of the father of the new Bong Go of the Junior government, Antonio Ernesto “Anton” Floirendo Lagdameo Jr., the husband of actress Dawn Zulueta.

Antonio Lagdameo, Sr. took the seat vacated by Manalo- the country’s permanent representative to the United Nations. Wait, there’s more to this: this position was reportedly offered first to former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

The incumbent solon of the 2nd district of Pampanga outrightly rejected the offer and was heard saying “why do you want me out of the country.” This is a tell-tale sign that political fissures are widening.

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