Department of Foreign Affairs

DFA extends validity of expiring passports

The Department of Foreign Affairs announced that they are extending the validity of expiring passports up to one year for those who urgently need to travel, and have applied for their ePassports, but have not received their renewed passports. Unprecedented increase in applicants for passports, and technical difficulty forced the Department of Foreign Affairs’ hand on the matter in spite increase office hours up to 8PM on weekdays, and opening shop from 8AM to 5PM on Saturdays.

According to the Official Gazette, “Overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) and applicants who need their passports on emergency circumstances (e.g., medical concerns, death in the immediate family) are advised to go to the Passport Director’s Office, for assistance. The Passport Director’s Office is located at the ground floor of the DFA-OCA at the Aseana Business Park along Macapagal Avenue.”

The DFA-OCA maybe reached at (02) 737-1000, and (02) 556-0000. The public may also send email to [email protected], or visit their website.

President Aquino swears in Albert del Rosario as Acting Foreign Secreatary

Statement of Presidential Spokesperson Edwin Lacierda:

On the appointment of Albert del Rosario as Acting Secretary of Foreign Affairs

[Released on February 24, 2011]

The President has sworn in former Ambassador Albert del Rosario as Acting Secretary of Foreign Affairs. He comes with a sterling track record in foreign service to show that he will serve the President and the Republic with integrity and the highest devotion to the democratic principles that underscore all official actions, domestic and foreign.

He comes into office at a time filled with many challenges. The President believes that he must be brought to harness at the soonest possible time to be fully briefed and engaged.

Secretary del Rosario is a choice that can harmonize our professional foreign service, with the President as architect of our foreign policy, so that all are working together to pursue our national interest. The Chief Executive has every expectation that theirs will be a productive and energetic working relationship.

Source: gov.ph

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Aquino alliance rocked by factions, interests (Second of three parts)

(Series by VERA Files; first published in The Manila Times)

President Aquino also said he told Robredo: “I will retain direct supervision on the PNP [Philippine National Police].” In his testimony before the Incident Investigation Review Committee that is probing the hostage-taking incident, Department of Interior and Local Government Undersecretary for Peace and Order Rico Puno said that he had “verbal instructions from the President to oversee the PNP” in addition to his duties to supervise Patrol 117, Bureau of Fire Protection, Bureau of Jail Management and Penology, Public Safety College and the Philippine Center for Transnational Crime.

In his platform of government, President Aquino had pledged to transform government service “from presidential appointees chosen mainly out of political accommodation to discerning selection based on integrity, competence and performance in serving the public good: a civil service based on merit and not political patronage.”

Mr. Aquino’s supporters, however, are also among the first to admit that a number of more qualified, competent and experienced individuals recommended by the search committee for Cabinet positions were edged out because the President based his selection not only on trust and his “comfort level” but also on “utang na loob [debt of gratitude].”

Clashes among the President’s advisers have also surrounded the appointments. The two main competing groups are carryovers from the campaign. One is composed of Liberal Party stalwarts and the Hyatt 10, or cabinet members of former president and now Rep. Gloria Arroyo of Pampanga who quit her government after the “Hello, Garci” exposé. The group supported Manuel “Mar” Roxas 2nd for vice president. They are also referred to as the “Balay” (which means ”house” in the Visayan dialect) group because their meeting place was the Araneta-Roxas compound in Cubao, Quezon City.

The other group is made up mainly of relatives of President Aquino like his uncle, former Rep. Jose Cojuangco of Tarlac, cousin and TV director Maria Montelibano and friends who supported Jejomar Binay’s bid for vice president. They are referred to as the “Samar” group because their headquarters was a house on Samar Avenue in Quezon City owned by real estate businessman Jose “Jerry” Acuzar, brother in law of Executive Secretary Paquito “Jojo” Ochoa.

Rough sailing Robredo

Sen. Francis “Chiz” Escudero, who was part of the Aquino campaign and endorsed Binay for vice president, had said Robredo would have a difficult time before the Commission of Appointments.

There is also the clash between the “pragmatists” and “purists” among President Aquino’s close advisers.
The purists are those who think Aquino should make a clean break from his predecessor Arroyo and that he should rid his Cabinet of those identified with her government. The pragmatists are those willing to work with former officials of Mrs. Arroyo.

The ad hoc search committee was composed of Ochoa, Finance Secretary Cesar Purisima, Tourism Secretary Alberto Lim, Presidential Management Staff Chief Julia Abad, Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin and Internal Revenue Commissioner and Aquino classmate Kim Henares.

Accounts on the role of sisters Ma. Elena “Ballsy” Aquino-Cruz and Aurora Corazon “Pinky” Aquino-Abellada in the search committee vary. While some said they were members of the committee, Ochoa said in an interview that the President’s two elder sisters merely gave suggestions but were not members of the committee.

The post of Foreign Affairs secretary was at first committed to former Trade Secretary Juan Santos, a member of the “Hyatt 10.”

Repaying Romulo

President Aquino, however, was forced to retract the offer to Santos after his sisters prevailed on him to retain Alberto Romulo mainly because of their families’ friendship, despite allegations of incompetence by the career foreign service corps on Romulo.

Romulo was the first among Mrs. Arroyo’s government officials to have openly said he would support and campaign for then Senator Aquino even though he held on to his post all throughout Mrs. Arroyo’s incumbency. “But we owe Tito Bert [Romulo] a lot,” a source present in the meeting quoted one of the sisters when President Aquino informed the search committee of his decision on Santos, who was recently appointed chairman of the Social Security System.

A Malacañang source said President Aquino is keeping Romulo only in a “holdover” capacity for not more than one year.

President Aquino’s lack of rapport with Romulo has resulted in a disconnect between Malacañang and the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) with adverse consequences. These include the cancellation of Mr. Aquino’s visits to Vietnam and Indonesia, scheduled for the second week of September, which the Philippines had initiated.

The disconnect also resulted in President Aquino’s failure to receive the call of Hong Kong Chief Executive Donald Tsang at the height of the hostage crisis.

A Malacañang official said an aide of Mr. Aquino received Tsang’s call at about 5 p.m. of August 23 through the Palace trunkline. Tsang called without prior notice, and since President Aquino’s aide did not know who Tsang was, a source said the aide referred the call to the DFA.

A Foreign Affairs department official said that they waited for Tsang’s call but it never came. No one from the DFA took the initiative of calling Tsang because Malacañang’s instructions were “to wait” for Tsang’s call.

(Read the first part here.)

Palace: No mediation yet for 3 OFWs facing death in Saudi

No mediation yet for 3 OFWs facing death in Saudi—Palace

By Maila Ager
INQUIRER.net

MANILA, Philippines – The government will not intercede yet for three Filipinos facing the death penalty in Saudi Arabia pending final resolution by the court, a spokesman for President Benigno Aquino III said Tuesday.

But in the meantime, Edwin Lacierda pointed out that the Department of Foreign Affairs was in touch with the family of the victim in an effort “to obtain forgiveness by way of blood money.”

Victorino Gaspar, Jr., Paul Miquibas, and Edgardo Genetiano were convicted by a Saudi Court for robbing and killing another Filipino worker in Jeddah.

Lacierda explained that the death penalty was promulgated by the committee of five judges and has just been elevated before the court of appeals.

“I understand from the Department of Foreign Affairs that it will take approximately three months for them to decide and after that, if we have an adverse decision against the three Filipinos, the Saudi lawyer who is representing the 3 Filipinos will elevate the case before the Supreme Court,” he said.

“In the meantime, the DFA is in touch with the family of the victim in an effort to obtain forgiveness by way of blood money so right now medyo malayo pa [it’s still far] so we’re hoping that the DFA is still doing all its best to communicate with the family of the victim. So it will take sometime,” he said.