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Cleaning Up the DFA: An Imperative

July 9, 2010

When will the “kung walang corrupt, walang mahirap” war make its beachhead at the Department of Foreign Affairs and its component embassies and consulates?

We’re supposed to believe that our diplomats and diplomatic posts are at the forefront of projecting the Republic in the best light and in promoting, and protecting the interests of Filipinos, right?

Think again.

The Home Office, as the imposing building (former digs of the Asian Development Bank before it’s relocation to Pasig City) is called, is supposed to be the nerve center for:

… the pursuit of the State’s foreign policy and the nerve center for a Foreign Service worthy of the trust and pride of every Filipino.

We are an organization of competent, dedicated and highly motivated personnel, who devote their energies to the benefit of the Filipino people.

We implement foreign policy with the highest standards of professionalism and commitment.

We pursue bilateral, regional and multilateral relations to advance the interest of the Philippines and the Filipinos.

We build partnerships with national security and development agencies, think-tanks and the academe, the private sector, the media and civil society in the interest of the nation and the people.

We endeavor to promote regional and global cooperation in order to achieve peace, prosperity and stability.

In the global arena, we work for social justice especially for the poor, human rights and fundamental freedoms, and a democratic way of life.

We are committed to secure a world free from serious environmental degradation, transnational crime and proliferation of nuclear weapons.

Our missions abroad are the partners of Filipinos overseas in the pursuit of the national interest and in the promotion and protection of their rights and well-being.

We have highly responsive system, which ensures effective delivery of services.

Our personnel are our greatest asset. We are committed to the personal, professional and career development of each employee.

In pursuit of our goals, we strive for and live by the principles of excellence, integrity and patriotism.

Surely noble.

But if truth be told, not a few Filipinos feel that our foreign policy sometime looks like it rides on the coattails of a foreign power and only coincidentally advance our own interests.

This is certainly a harsh reading given how our history, much of it written in war-time struggles, has been shaped by our colonial past described being influenced by ‘300 years in a convent and four decades of Hollywood’.

The truth of the matter is Filipino patriots did win our independence from Spain, and while America took it as divine providence to ‘train’ us in the ways of democracy, the First Republic in Asia has gone through more than its share of sacrifices to stand proud as a co-equal member of the community of nations.

But through,  while our foreign service is still largely populated by professionals, there are troubling red flags about how affairs go thereat.

Multiple sources say:

  1. Certain ambassadors and even lower ranking officials shamelessly exploit their diplomatic standing and periodic tax-free privileges to smuggle to Manila various good ranging from antique items declared as used and second-hand items and personal effects;
  2. Influential DFA personnel have personal ‘quotas’ for the number of passports they facilitate on a daily basis;
  3. Staff items for FSSOs or foreign service staff officers are ‘sold’ to applicants seeking foreign assignments as these come with regular privileges to send home ‘personal effects’ in 20-foot or even 40-footer container vans tax-free;
  4. Certain senior DFA bigwigs have their own travel bureaus which corner the booking of foreign trips for department personnel.
  5. Inadequate action of not neglect on the plight of our overseas migrant workers in the Middle East, Europe, and Africa who fall victim to human traffickers and other criminals.

Petty corruption or minor infractions you might dismissively say.

But you need only to scratch the surface at the Home Office to confirm the demoralizing impact of these practices apart from the monetary value of the same in lost taxes and the culture of corruption and warped values that are bred.

Paging P. Noy.

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