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A Revolt At The DFA; Foreign Service Officers Decry The Appointment Of Non-Career Envoys (2nd Update)

October 15, 2009

Department of foreign affairs

There’s a revolt, a political storm, over at the Department of Foreign Affairs.

But it’s a storm that’s not going to dissipate when it makes landfall.

Am referring to the letter-complaint written two weeks ago by the Union of Foreign Service Officers addressed to Pres. Gloria Macapagal Arroyo and signed by UNIFORS  President, Ambassador Victoria S. Bataclan,


The letter is here:

As the letter indicates, the lady envoy has served as the Philippines representative to eight countries: Hong Kong and Ambassador to Sweden, Finland, Estonia, Lithuania, Latvia, Denmark, Norway and Iceland, apart from being Philippine Consul-General in Hong Kong.


The focus of the complaint is former labor undersecretary for migrant workers concerns Esteban Conejos, who as the UNIFORS letter reveals, was recently appointed Permanent Representative to the United Nations in Geneva.

The complaint’s highlights:

1.    This appointment of Mr. Conejos not only brings the level of non-career ambassadors to its highest level in Philippine history, it places your Excellency in imminent breach of the statutory limit set by Section 17 of Republic Act No. 7157, otherwise known as the Foreign Service Act of 1991.

As of 28 September 2009, there are 29 non-career ambassadors and 36 career ambassadors.  Of the latter group, about eight (8) have ended their tour of duty (and are on short-term extensions) or about to end their tour of duty within sixty (60) days.

Thus, if all these 8 career ambassadors return home, your Excellency will have breached the statutory limits even without the appointment of Mr. Conejos.

4.    There is no transparency in the appointment of non-career ambassadors.  The career corps  is deeply disappointed and disheartened over the fact that it has not been informed nor consulted prior to the issuance of such appointments.

In the instant appointment of Mr. Conejos, dated 3 September 2009, the corresponding document, which appears patently flawed on its face and its process, was seen only about 3 weeks after said date.

5.    Finally, though not squarely attending the appointment of Mr. Conejos, the career corps also takes issue over the issuance of appointments to persons beyond the age of 65.

There are at least fourteen (14) non-career ambassadors beyond 65 years old in violation of both the letter and spirit of Section 23 of the Foreign Service Act.

Equally important, my colleagues in the foreign service hope that your term as President will have a legacy that strengthened the drive towards professionalizing the Foreign Service.

A constitutionally mandated career service is a true pillar of a strong Republic. This was the legacy of your great father who authored the first Philippine Foreign Service Act.

We trust it is yours too.


The assertions cannot be more pointed.

It is telling that Foreign Affairs Secretary Alberto Romulo himself does not appear to havebeen given the courtesy of a copy of the letter complaint.

My sources, however, clarified that Romulo was, in fact, given a copy of the document.

ROMULO WITH UNIFORS OFFICERS (Sec. Romulo with the UNIFORS officers warlier this year.)

There is no indication that if Malacanang has responded to the UNIFORS complaint.

The President is the architect of the country’s foreign policy and certainly has full executive prerogative to appoint whomever she sees fit to represent the Republic in the United Nations and its other instrumentalities.


Former labor undersecretary and now ambassador-designate Conejos certainly has the requisite experience and credentials to serve in the post. He is also a lawyer.

The gentleman is also a known ally of former Senator Orlando S, Mercado who was named Philippine Ambassador to ASEAN several months ago.

I’ll be updating this post.

1st Update:

Press Secretary Cerge, according to a report in the Philippine Daily Inquirer, asserted that “Conejos was not appointed.”

The PDI report is here:

“But what really is disconcerting and demoralizing,” a member of UNIFORS told me, “is the glaring fact of how other countries treat their diplomatic service where the overwhelming majority, including in the US, are career diplomats and not political

Here’s the current roster of Philippine envoys:


2nd Update:

Pres. Arroyo has now withdrawn the appointment of former labor undersecretary ffor migrant affairs Esteban Conejos as Permanent Representative to the United Nations in Geneva.

But over at the DFA, Ambassador Bataclan herself was axed as Assistant Secretary.

The revolt has exacted its toll both ways.

Here’s a link to Vera Files latest report on the scandal:

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