the “Hello” heard ’round the world

Jove Francisco provides the transcript of the Palace-approved “real” phone conversation of the President. He gives the Palace press corps’s reaction, as well. Read his additional comments, they make for interesting reading. I disagree with some of Joves’s points, mainly with regards to his surprise over how the President seems to have micromanaged the past campaign. There’s no other way to do it, and it is how her father conducted his campaigns: methodically, relentlessly, and with great attention to goings-on in the remotest local level. She is, after all, the daughter of the man who won the presidency by trying to visit every single barrio in the country.

Now whether or not the best defense is really a good offense, and whether what the palace calls the real version of the phone calls doesn’t cause more trouble than it tries to solve, remains to be seen.

All’s well in Israel where the Philippine ambassador apologized for comparing Israeli authorities to the Nazi Gestapo. My feelings on this brief diplomatic tempest are mixed. The ambassador should not have said what he said, but his frustration was well-intentioned, and reflects the kind of excesses permissible to diplomats in aid of securing the goals of their country: by which I mean it is a diplomatic tactic to cause a stir, only to back donw after the more important strategic objectives have been met (the Americans have done that here, often, stirring up trouble by having a lower-level flunky shoot his mouth off, only for the comment to be officially denounced). The harsh treatment of some Filipino workers is a long-standing issue, and I asked Israeli diplomats here about it, and they claimed it was a thing of the past. The ambassador’s going over the top rhetorically did get action from the Israeli authorities, and that’s what our diplomats are meant to do: get foreign governments to do attend to the needs of our citizens.

Speaking of diplomats, Philippine Consul General Cecile Rebong is in the hot seat over the rent she pays for her official residence in Manhattan. Columnist Federico Pascual gives a fair summary of what is really a non-issue. He suggests she may have just pissed off one self-righteous Fil-Am too many. Anyway, Fil-Ams are ticked off: one list of schedules includes a meeting to discuss what to do with her:

*6/12 SUN, 3 pm – Community Town Hall Meeting responding to the alarming expose of Filipino NY Consul General Cecilia Rebong’s budget allowance of $10k a month to sustain her posh residence at Manhattan’s Trump Tower at UN Plaza. All Filipinos as well as Consul General Rebong & consulate reps invited “to openly discuss what is viable community concern.” W/discussion of fate of fmr Marcos-owned 66th St townhouse now going to waste but w/potential to be used for public benefit. At PF Qns office, 54-05 Seabury St, Elmhurst (G/V/R to Qns Blvd). Sponsor: Phillippine Forum. Info: 718-565-8862. More info: NY Cmt for Human Rights in the Philippines (NYCHRP), nyc…

Again, I think Pascual has it right. The real lesson here is about how the government allows its properties abroad to reach such a state of neglect, that expensive solutions have to be found to fix them. The Philippine Ambassador’s residence in Washington, D.C., for example, became so decrepit that the second floor was on the verge of collapse; the old embassy building, the historic old chancery purchased during the Commonwealth, is falling apart, while the government decides what to do with it. The disgraceful state of public buildings at home is more than duplicated by the state of government buildings abroad.

Manuel L. Quezon III.

5 thoughts on “the “Hello” heard ’round the world

  1. nice comment and right on the nail regarding official residences and offices of our diplomats abroad. I have been to the NY Mission and Consulate and I’m amazed at the way it looks, it reminds me of some govt. offices in the Philippines. True, its hard to get a budget sometimes, and at most, if there is a budget, the govt. will give such a paltry sum that you’d have to be a magician of sorts on how to best make a rather decent renovation.

    On the Ambassador’s statements, sometimes the best way to rattle the cage and make people take notice may be through statements like these, although I probably would have chosen my words more nicely…

  2. It’s not just a government thingk it’s a cultural thing. Property developers have a big problem with buildings getting run down. Something to do with depreciation and just writing buildings off.

  3. Thank you for bringing the plight of our career diplomats out in the open. Many people back home think that Filipino diplomats are living in sinful luxury abroad when in fact they are having a hard time making ends meet, especially those among them assigned in the United States and also Europe. Some of our diplomats in the US, especially those in New York, are forced to stay in apartments outside Manhattan where they should ideally be and where most of their ASEAN colleagues stay. But since their living quarters allowances are not sufficient enough, most, if not all members of our diplomatic and consular staff end up in Queens or nearby New Jersey where the crime rate is way up the national average. One or two of our diplomats or their dependents have even been mugged in these areas as a result. There really is a need to review the DFA’s overseas payscale, which remains pegged on rates that were last adjusted 10 years ago.

  4. Thank you. Having had a chance to work with people from the DFA, I think they’re getting a raw deal.

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