Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Guest Commentary: Our Kundiman Ambassador

RODEL RODIS, President of the San Francisco City School Board, who is also an old friend and an outstanding Filipino American lawyer, writer and community leader, sent me his Philippine news column Telltale Signs, his salute to Ambassador Alberto Del Rosario...
Our Kundiman Ambassador
by Atty. Rodel E. Rodis

It may be difficult to imagine President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo as Donald Trump but her “You’re recalled” has rapidly become the Filipino equivalent of “You’re fired” in “The Apprentice”.

President Arroyo’s “recall” of Philippine Ambassador to the US Albert Del Rosario may yet rank as one of the worst political blunders of her presidency, of “Hello Garci” tape proportions. Ironically, the only one who could have advised her of the sheer stupidity of the decision and the grotesque incompetence of its execution was Ambassador Del Rosario, who could not do so because he was the subject of the “recall.”

Ambassador Del Rosario has been the most decent and most effective Philippine Ambassador to the US that any Philippine president could have ever hoped for and President Arroyo should have been grateful that in the dark days of her presidency, she had a shining light in Washington DC who could focus the Filipino community’s attention away from petty politics to working to improve the country’s economy and its image in the US.

But now that shining light has been “recalled” in a manner that has completely shocked and dismayed the Filipino community in the US.

In an open letter to President Arroyo that was circulated on the Internet, hundreds of Filipino community leaders all over the US expressed their deep sadness and outrage at the news of Ambassador Del Rosario’s “untimely removal.”

“What is utterly dismaying”, the letter states, “is the unceremonious manner in which his exemplary service has been abruptly terminated. Common decency and respect require that a head of state treat her official representative with high professional standards.”

“We are vehemently aghast that despite his loyalty, professionalism and dedication,” the letter continued, “you chose to treat him so shabbily. Such is simply beneath the dignity of your office, Madam President.”

Ambassador Del Rosario responded to the Open Letter by stating that there is “no way for me to thank you for your zeal in taking a position on my behalf. At the same time, I am most saddened that my situation has caused your expression of disappointment with our government. If you will, may I please urge us to move on…Let us look on how we can build upon our constructive partnership and our invaluable friendship to strengthen the institutions and to benefit the people of the Philippines.”

When I think of Ambassador Del Rosario, I will always remember Calpers. It was on March 15, 2004 when Ambassador Del Rosario mobilized our San Francisco Bay Area Filipino community to attend a Sacramento meeting of the Board of the California Public Employees Retirement System (Calpers) which was considering the recommendation of Wilshire Associates to withdraw Calpers investments in the Philippines.

When allowed to address the Board, the Ambassador expressed frustration that Wilshire Associates was unwilling to meet with him to discuss its proposal. "It's easier to make an appointment with the Queen of England than with Wilshire Associates," he complained.

He then methodically explained the errors in Wilshire’s grading of the Philippines which failed to include other economic factors which would push the Philippines’ grade above the threshold 2.0, enough for Calpers to retain its investments in the Philippines. The Board was so impressed with the Ambassador’s power point presentation that it unanimously voted to table the vote, which, according to insiders, had been expected to be 9 – 4 in favor of divestment.

At the next Board meeting the following month, the properly chastised Wilshire’s group, which had since met with the Ambassador, did an about face and recommended retaining its investments in the Philippines, which the Calpers Board unanimously accepted. If Calpers had withdrawn its investments from the Philippines, it would have caused a chain reaction of similar divestments that would have seriously damaged the Philippine economy.

The tragedy of this recall is that it was so unnecessary. Ambassador Del Rosario wrote a letter of resignation to President Arroyo two years ago expressing his desire to return to the private sector. His resignation was rejected then, however, because President Arroyo could not find anyone of his caliber to replace him.

President Arroyo should have personally called Ambassador Del Rosario to inform him that she was now “reluctantly” accepting his resignation, with her personal gratitude and the gratitude of the Philippine nation for his selfless dedication to duty.

Instead, President Arroyo chose a process that General Motors employs when a defect is found in its cars. And instead of personally calling the Ambassador, she delegated the task to Secretary of Foreign Affairs Bert Romulo who incredulously leaked the news first to Philippine Star publisher-columnist Max Soliven, a long-time critic of Del Rosario.

This tragedy has all the hallmarks of a kundiman, the Filipino folk music that speaks of unrequited love. It is a contraction of the Tagalog words "kung hindi man" which means "if it is not to be." It speaks of a love that is spurned but remains true to heart. It is, what one wrote, “the voice of yearning love in song, plaintive in its lyrical heartbreak and yet transcendent through melodic expressiveness.”

A kundiman like "Kapantay ay Langit" by the late George Canseco, contains these typical expressions of undying love "Mahal kita, kapantay ay langit sinta, at lagi kong dasal sa Maykapal, ang lumigaya ka, kahit ngayon, mayroon ka nang ibang mahal, hinding-hindi pa run ako magdaramdam, ngunit sinta, sakaling paluhain ka, magbalik ka lamang, naghihintay, puso ko't kaluluwa."

("I love you, a love equal to heaven, dearest, and it is my fervent prayer to God, that you be happy. Even though you now love another, I won't be bitter. But if he makes you cry, come back to me, my heart and soul await you.")

Ambassador Del Rosario, despite having been spurned by the president, betrays no bitterness towards her and still expresses his ardent support for the government’s efforts to improve the country, which he loves above all else.

We salute you, Ambassador Del Rosario, for your unwavering love of country and for your inspiring professional dedication. We offer you our deepest kundiman thanks.

On Wednesday, June 28, at 6 PM, the Filipino community of the San Francisco Bay Area will bid its loving farewell to Ambassador Del Rosario at the Green Room of the War Memorial Building at 401 Van Ness Avenue in San Francisco.

Please be there to personally express your thanks to Ambassador Del Rosario.
Rodel is also published locally by INQ7/Global Nation.

1 comment:

Rizalist said...

Check out the brouhaha going on at UNIFFORS over the ambassador to Thailand.