Monday 6 November 2017

Why Allan Peter Cayetano is doing a good job as DFA Secretary?

Philippine Ambassador to the United States of America Babe Romualdez in his column Babe’s Eye last Sunday ( November 5, 2017, Philippine Star) wrote a very critical analysis of the current Philippine foreign affairs vis a vis the whole world.

We all know that the start of the Duterte administration was already in chaos, when Vice President Maria Leonor Robredo sent a video message in a United Nations sanctioned event regarding the much publicized – Duterte’s brutal campaign against Illegal drugs. Round after round the country’s image was blacken because we seems to have not gotten ourselves a true blue fighter for the Department Foreign Affairs (DFA) portfolio.

The hardworking and close confidant of the president then DFA Secretary Perfecto Yasay cannot fully exercise his functions despite his stellar qualifications, which all ended when the powerful Commission of Appointments (CA) decided reject his nomination for the DFA position. *
Department Of Foreign Affairs Peter Allan Cayetano (photo credit to ABS-CBN News)

The appointment of Senator Allan Peter Cayetano, was I think an ace pulled by the President from his deck, all seems fell into place when this was announced. His nomination was readily accepted by his colleagues in the Commission of Appointments in Congress- a tradition by them whenever a member is appointed to a cabinet position of the sitting President.

Going back to US Ambassador’s Romualdez admiration of Cayetano’s work in the Department Foreign Affairs.

The Romualdez column follows:

Less than six months after joining the Cabinet of President Rodrigo Duterte, former senator and now Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano literally hit the ground running. And I can comfortably say – after watching him up close – that he is the perfect man for the job. I traveled with Secretary Alan to Davao last Friday for the briefing of the president on the upcoming ASEAN Summit.

With 21 heads of state plus the UN Secretary-General set to attend, the preparations for this historic event are simply overwhelming. This column may sound “sipsip” to some people but I can bluntly say I’ve been around long enough to know who’s who in government and what’s what. Observing Secretary Alan in the past couple of weeks, I can see he can aptly articulate what is in President Duterte’s mind. *

“The Philippines integrates the human rights agenda in its development initiatives for the purpose of protecting everyone, especially the most vulnerable, from lawlessness, violence and anarchy… That is why we have a massive campaign to restore the rule of law by fighting corruption, crime and illegal drugs,” he said in his eloquent speech at the UN general assembly in New York, emphasizing that “security and human rights are not incompatible.” 

He also had very good meetings in Washington, D.C. with US State Secretary Rex Tillerson as well as Senators John McCain III and Cory Gardner. McCain is a strong advocate of the continuing engagement of the US in the Philippines and the Asia Pacific region. McCain’s grandfather served in the Philippines during the Second World War while his father, US Navy Admiral John S. McCain Jr., was awarded the Philippine Legion of Honor. Senator McCain himself spent time in Subic and it was in Clark where he was processed after his release from Vietnam as a prisoner of war.

Senator Gardner – who chairs the US Senate’s Foreign Relations Subcommittee on East Asia – visited the Philippines last June to have a “face-to-face” discussion with President Duterte about threats to US national security and the importance of adhering to the rule of law. Gardner is also one of those who urged US President Donald Trump to attend the ASEAN Summit, noting the importance of showing US leadership “not just in rhetoric but in action, in visible ways.” *

In the meeting with Tillerson, both officials reaffirmed the importance of maintaining the partnership and alliance between the US and the Philippines which, in the words of Secretary Tillerson, is “on an upward vector.”

During that meeting, Secretary Alan also said the Philippines is ready to work with independent observers and experts on the serious problem of illegal drugs – but he also made it clear in no uncertain terms that these experts or investigators must be fair and impartial, and make sure investigations are not politicized so that outcomes are credible.

People who know Secretary Cayetano well say his sharp wit, unflappable character and eloquence are among the reasons why he is perfect as our top diplomat – able to articulate what the president really wants to communicate.

Many Filipino-Americans who met Alan Peter during his month-long trip to the US were clearly impressed, saying he “exemplifies a young diplomat with charisma and sense of humor…” positive characteristics that could be utilized to “balance and calm down political tensions that the Duterte administration is facing with other countries.”

During a speaking engagement dubbed as “A Conversation with Alan Peter Cayetano” organized by the Council on Foreign Relations, former US Ambassador to the Philippines Frank Wisner introduced him as “a man who has worked [his] way up from the grassroots of Philippine politics through the House of Representatives, to [his] election to the Senate…” – representing “the very best in Philippine politics,” and adding “particular tone and luster” to the Cabinet of President Duterte.  *

The said speaking engagement highlighted the eloquence and intelligence of Secretary Cayetano – framing the president’s new independent foreign policy through the balanced use of metaphors and “plainspeak” as he discussed the challenges that global change poses on bilateral relations.

President Duterte pursues “a truly independent foreign policy for Filipinos by Filipinos, where we pursue bridges to places where once there was none… a bridge to the other side of the river,” Secretary Alan said.

When the president announced our “separation” from the US during his state visit to China, what he meant was this: When Philippine interests intersect with the interest of the US or any other country, we go together. When the interests do not meet, then we make our own path.

“Sometimes we sacrifice, because that is what foreign relations is all about… It’s about we. It’s about us,” Alan Peter told his audience, elaborating that the Philippines also wants to stand on its own two feet.

“What good is the Philippines as an ally to the US if we are always dependent upon you? But as a strong ally, standing on our own, we are more use to you and the American people,” he said.

This is actually aligned with President Donald Trump’s speech to the UN: “Our success depends on a coalition of strong and independent nations that embrace their sovereignty, to promote security, prosperity, and peace, for themselves and for the world,” Trump said.  *

With Secretary Alan as Foreign Secretary, I completely subscribe to what he described as our foreign policy: “The Filipino people’s interest comes before all others.”


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