Foreign Service Insider

A frank and open forum on the Philippine Foreign Service and how it affects the lives of millions of Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs).

Friday, June 23, 2006

GMA's trip to Milan Cancelled

Yesterday, it was reported that GMA was rushed to the hospital because of abdominal pains. Secretary Mike Defensor has been quoted as saying that it is nothing serious. She has been advised by her doctors to rest. She remains in full charge of the government.

It has since been learned that:

1. the Milan trip is cancelled
2. the Vatican and Madrid leg will push through. But the arrival in Rome will be delayed.

What a disappointment for the large number of OFWs in Milan who were so looking forward to the President's visit.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

GMA appoints Justice Arturo D. Brion Labor Secretary

The appointment of Court of Appeals Justice Arturo D. Brion as the new Secretary of Labor and Employment to replace outgoing Secretary Patricia Sto. Tomas is welcome news. From the time Malacanang announced GMA's acceptance of the resignation of Sec Pat, Justice Brion was "primus inter pares" among the names Secretary Sto. Tomas submitted as her possible replacement. These aspirants included Cerge Remonde, head of the Government Mass Media Group, and Arthur Yap, head of the Presidential Management Staff and concurrent presidential adviser on jobs creation.

Brion is eminently qualified for the job. He topped the 1975 Bar examination, and takes with him a wealth of experience and a sterling record in the Labor Department and the Department of Foreign Affairs. Having served as Undersecretary in both the DFA and DOLE, he will have the institutional knowledge to spearhead the Philippine government's OFW program, a major pillar of our foreign policy. Furthermore, he is a legal luminary whose experience in the Court of Appeals will be very useful in dealing with the arbitration aspects of the labor portfolio.

Not many people know this, but Brion was the point man who set up and implemented the Overseas Absentee Voting Secretariat (OAVS) when he was Undersecretary for Special Concerns under the late DFA Secretary Blas Ople. It was a complicated task that Brion undertook and successfully implemented before he bowed out of the DFA snakepit in June 2003, to join the Judiciary as associate justice of the appellate court. He had to fend off ferocious resistance and gutter-sniping, which is par for the course in the DFA, in order to set up the absentee voting system. He never took credit for this achievement.

Frankly, in this dark era of murky politics that we live in, Brion's appointment is like a lucid interval. Since the Garci tapes, and with the threat of coups and impeachment hanging over her head, GMA's decisions have been driven by only one consideration: her political survival. For a while there, it looked like she could use the the DOLE position as a carrot to hold over congress and senate in her political struggles. Thank goodness she did not bow to political pressures.

The OFWs can now look to Secretary-designate Art Brion, to safeguard their interests and well-being. I wish him well.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

The birth of a blogger

This blog is intended to be an open forum on matters relating to OFWs and the Philippine Foreign Service.

1. If you are an OFW, a tourist, immigrant, Dual citizen in a foreign country, and would like to share your experience in dealing with a Philippine foreign service post, your comments are welcome.

2. If you are in the Philippine Foreign Service and would like to share your views or air your side of an issue, your comments are likewise welcome.

3. As a matter of fact, comments and views from all stakeholders are welcome. Be they media, government sources (official or otherwise), private entities, friends and relatives, serendipitous surfers of the web, what-have-you.

There are basic ground rules to be observed, though. These rules would deal with fairplay, decency and evidence. Rules that I would determine as we go along. Hey!! I'm the host of this blog.

What I would like to create is a forum for frank and civilized discussion of burning issues in the Philippine foreign service and the Filipino diaspora.

Let's blog!!!

Victor P. Jose