Diplomat’s Insulting Remark Triggers Media Uproar in Toronto

by Romeo P. Marquez

TORONTO — A press conference on Saturday (March 6) called by newly-named Consul General Minerva Falcon turned into an emotional three-hour grievance forum against a Filipino labor official attached with the Philippine Consulate here.

The Philippine diplomat, facing her first press conference with the locals, has barely warmed her seat, having planed in ten days ago from Manila as a replacement for Alejandro Mosquera whose six-year tenure as consul-general ended in January.

Media complaints surfaced as soon as the 63-year-old lawyer and former ambassador to Germany and Switzerland had delivered her remarks about having cordial relations with the Filipino community in Toronto, Canada’s largest city where most of the estimated 250,000 Filipinos live.

Falcon lent her ear as two of the most vociferous publishers and editors from among the more than a dozen newspapers here grumbled about being called “morons” — a tag they claimed was labeled on them by Philippine labor attache Frank Luna.

Luna was not present at the press conference. Neither was he immediately available for comment. Questions e-mailed to his office by this reporter are still awaiting answers as of this writing.

Falcon, who was apparently briefed earlier about the growing animosity between Luna and the media, kept her cool when confronted by a barrage of questions from Ace Alvarez, managing editor of Manila Media Monitor; Ramon Datol, publisher and editor of Philippine Courier, and other media persons.

The press conference at first sounded like a police interrogation and Falcon played along well with Alvarez’s line of questioning. When Datol’s turn came, he loudly told the Consul General that Luna had called local reporters “morons”, sparking laughter among the crowd.

Tenny Soriano, president of the Philippine Press Club based in Toronto, Ontario had described Luna in his story as the “odd man out of the diplomatic mission.”

At one point, an angry Datol, his voice cracking, said it was the consensus of local media to have Luna declared “persona non grata” so he can be expelled from Canada.

Falcon, however, explained that it was the host country (Canada) that can do that, not the home country (Philippines) and had to be done on a reciprocal basis.

Absent that option, she said the media can seek relief by asking the department concerned to recall the person in question.

Falcon stressed, however, that she was not advocating nor suggesting the recall of Luna from his post as labor attache.

She said the process is far more complicated than just submitting a petition to authorities in Manila.

Luna got the ire of local media after he gave an award to a reporter of Toronto Star, one of Canada’s biggest newspapers, in recognition of his series of stories about Filipino caregivers.

The articles had prompted Canadian authorities to enact a new law protecting the caregiving community.

Soriano said the award to the mainstream reporter was a big “slap on the face” of Filipino media because it portrayed them as not having done anything to Filipino caregivers.

But the fact was that another Filipino, Eduardo Lee, publisher of Atin Ito newspaper, had written extensively about the recurring issue long before the Star reporter came out with his first article. Lee was not recognized.  (Philippine Village Voice)

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