Is there a new Consul General?

by Ricky Rillera

News Analysis

NEW YORK – Three months after former Consul General Ma. Theresa Dizon-De Vega left for a higher post at the Home Office, the search for her successor may have ended. Is there a new Consul General? If there is, who would that be?

Soon after she left in end February to assume her new post, and perhaps even before that, speculations of potential nominees have come up. Several names were floated around in Manila when it became known that Dizon-De Vega was part of the reshuffling of incumbents in the Department of Foreign Affairs.

This was confirmed by a report that came out in one of the newspapers in Manila.

Community leaders and members from the Tri-state area chimed in with their expectations of her replacement. Some even lobbied for their own candidates. Members of the media had also their own hunches fed by their own sources but staff from the Consulate was tightlipped about it and hesitated to confirm the appointee.

Nothing is final

The media was politely told that nothing is final until the person has arrived – it is just the nature of the bureaucracy. The appointment does not require confirmation by the Commission on Appointments (COA), unlike ambassadorial posts. For example, career diplomat Linglingay F. Lacanlale, who was then-Undersecretary of Administration had to go through COA confirmation early this year for her appointment as Ambassador to Argentina. Lacanlale was Consul General in New York from 1999 to 2003. She has also previously served as Ambassador to other countries after leaving New York.

Another one is Manuel Antonio Teehankee, Undersecretary for International Economic Relations, the newest political appointee in the Home Office under President Duterte’s administration. COA confirmed his Ambassadorship to the World Trade Organization (WTO) in Geneva, Switzerland.  These appointments create vacancies in the top echelon of DFA which would allow Dizon-De Vega to finally transition to one of these offices.

For now, Dizon-De Vega is Chief Coordinator, Office of the Secretary, a position which she held before she went back to New York as Consul General. Concurrently, she is Officer-in-Charge, Office of the Undersecretary for Administration.

But the identity of Dizon-De Vega’s successor had remained anonymous. No amount of persistence made to the consular staff to confirm this reporter’s intuition succeeded. Either they wanted to keep everyone at bay in complete secrecy or they were holding back to keep the community in constant anticipation and eventually revealed at the “right” time.

Shortlist cross-checked

Meanwhile, names of diplomats from posts in Canada, Chicago, Manila, New York, Hawaii, and the UK were considered as potential sources of appointees.

Former New York Deputy Consul General Zaldy Patron was even recommended by his friends from Jersey City and so was Deputy Consul General Kerwin Tate, who took over as acting chief. Even Consul Arman Talbo’s name, who is junior to Tate, was mentioned in conversations. As days went by, both Tate and Talbo were found not in contention.

Until the process of re-shuffling came into play during the second quarter this year.

Reshuffling begins

Patron, who was Executive Director of ASEAN Affairs in Manila, was named Deputy Consul General in Canada in April. Consul General in Hawaii Gina A. Jamoralin now holds the same post in Chicago. She was succeeded by Joselito Jimeno, who was Ambassador to Berne, Switzerland. Jimeno also served in New York: Vice Consul then Consul (1993-1997); Deputy Consul General (2002-2003).

The United Kingdom, which was previously the source to bring top people to New York in recent years — former Consul General Mario Lopez-De Leon, Jr. and Dizon-De Vega — was apparently scratched off from the list this time.

The only name that remained in the short list as the most likely successor is Claro S. Cristobal, a career diplomat who is the current Director-General of the Foreign Service Institute (FSI). He was appointed by former President Benigno Aquino III in July 2015.

Could he be the one? Further speculations backed by analysis and conversations from sources in Manila and elsewhere lead to Cristobal. It appears that he will be in town during the Philippine Independence Day Commemoration this Sunday, June 3. Apparently, he is representing the DFA to participate in the celebration and possibly, also attend the Independence Day Gala on June 9.

Well, if indeed he is the anointed one, here’s something about him.

Profile of most likely Consul General

Prior to his term in the Institute, Cristobal has served in seven foreign postings, the latest as Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary to the Arab Republic of Egypt (2009-2011). He also served as Minister and Consul General at the Philippine Embassy in Tokyo from September 2002 to January 2007. He was the Foreign Affairs Spokesperson of the Department from 2007 to 2009.

Cristobal is no stranger to New York. He served as Minister, Philippine Mission to the United Nations from 2000-2002; Consul, Philippine Consulate (1993-1997); and Third Secretary then Second Secretary, Philippine Mission to the UN (1990-1993).

At the Home Office, he was Special Assistant at the Office of the Secretary (1998-2000); Special Assistant at the Office of the Undersecretary for Policy in the latter half of 1997, and Assistant Director at the Office of Asia and Pacific Affairs (1988-1990).

Cristobal was a Presidential Citation Awardee in 2009 and 2010, and a Gawad Mabini Awardee in 2007 and 2012. He graduated from the University of the Philippines with a Bachelor of Arts in Philosophy (cum laude) in 1974 and a Master of Arts in Economics in 1979 and completed all course requirements for a Ph.D. in Economics in the same university. He also has a Master’s Degree in Accountancy from the Polytechnic University of the Philippines.

Prior to his diplomatic service, he taught Social Sciences at the University of the Philippines in Iloilo City and was a lecturer in Economics at the De La Salle University, Manila. He also held a managerial position at Cocomark, Manila.

Is welcoming the new Consul General Cristobal to New York too soon?

Leave a Comment