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, September 29, 2006

Changing of Guards

As a career foreign service officer, it is my dream to build up my career through merit, by dint of hard work and diligence. This vision is shared by many like-minded professional Foreign Service Officers (FSOs) in the Department of Foreign Affairs. On the average, we join the Department when we are in our 20s, hoping to build experience and expertise through the years, and rise up in the career through the merit system defined by the Foreign Service Act of 1991 or R.A. 7157.

Barring any career-ending event, a career FSO could realistically become a Chief of Mission after 20 years. Ideally, he would be around 50 years old, young and strong enough to meet the physical challenges of the job. And after 20 years in the service, he would have chalked up a wealth of experience to be able to skillfully navigate the corridors of diplomacy and negotiations on behalf of our country. He would be ripe for the job of ambassador.

Alas and alack. We helplessly watch our dreams and the future being shattered and destroyed by the very persons who are tasked to safeguard and protect them. Our seniors in the career corps. Many of them are clinging to their posts, in total disregard of the rotation system. This prevents infusion of fresh, young blood into the system because the old officers are blocking the youth from rising. Compared to their counterpart ambasadors from other vibrant and dynamic countries, they are relics of another time.

Some even hang on to their jobs, way beyond retirement age, unable to make a life outside the DFA. They are nothing but old men and women, deluding themselves into thinking they are serving the country. Worse, some of them don't even bother with these delusions. They are simply hanging on for dear life to a job that is better done by the youth. You see them in the lobby of DFA, in the Executive Lounge and in the elevators. They are out there as our envoys. Barely able to walk. Shuffling pitifully around with their canes. Or simply snoring away during meetings.

What on earth has happened to aging gracefully?

Saturday, September 02, 2006

Low Morale

It's no secret that the career corps of the DFA is suffering from low morale. We are supposed to protect OFWs from cruel and abusive employers, but who will protect us? We have to constantly deal with so many stakeholders, pressure groups and vested interests.

1. Of course the cruel and abusive employers themselves
2. The laws of the host government
3. Politicians back in the Philippines
4. The OFWs themselves
5. The Next-of-kin (NOKs) of the OFWs
6. Philippine media
7. NGOs
8. In the home office, there are hidden undercurrents to swim against; co-workers lying in wait for us to fail
9. Embassy/consulate intrigues

We, ourselves are just like everybody else. Working to make a living. Like the new "heroes", the OFWs, we also need protection and security. Are we OFWs? Shouldn't the foreign service personnel also institutionalize a means of securing itself from being easy prey to these pressure groups? We need to be able to defend ourselves from opportunistic forces that might undermine our capacity to effectively discharge our duties.

Friday, September 01, 2006

The Sound of Silence

I have been silent since June. Why? Because too many things have been happening that I felt needed unity -- if not unity, at least silence and cooperation.

The war between Israel and Hezbollah exposed our OFWs to the line of fire, necessitating their evacuation.

What awful sight it was to behold our high officials in the government, bickering over money and who's in charge.

How I envy Israel and their wartime solidarity. There is much we should learn from them. They may quarrel amongst themselves constantly, but when it is their country, their "eretz Israel" that is at stake, they will stand together.

In our case, the opposite happens. We resort to finger-pointing. It was pathetic.