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Sunday, March 24, 2019

Wenceslao: Who wasn’t in Kuwait

FORMER senator and now Foreign Affairs Secretary Peter Cayetano used to look good when he was with the House of Representatives. But his demeanor started to look irritating when he became senator, especially when he basked in the limelight when he joined the Senate probe against former vice president Jejomar Binay. Because he is a lawyer I thought he could be sharp in his arguments. That he is merely a glib talker was showcased in the probe. Then he sidled close to then presidential bet and now president Rodrigo Duterte and ended up being Foreign Affairs secretary.

Cayetano’s political ambition is known. He ran for vice president pairing up with Duterte with an eye for the presidential elections in 2022. What he and the other vice presidential bet who rode on the Duterte bandwagon, Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr., didn’t reckon was the widow of former Interior secretary Jesse Robredo, who also ran for VP. Leni Robredo defeated them.

When Cayetano assumed the post of Foreign Affairs secretary, his actions showed he still is targeting the presidency in 2022. Or how would you explain his surrounding himself with bloggers of the DDS (Duterte Diehard Supporters) kind in his trips abroad? Or why would Margaux “Mocha” Uson, who is with the Presidential Communications Operations Office (PCOO) be with Cayetano in some of his trips?

DDS bloggers like Uson and RJ Nieto (Thinking Pinoy) are known to have the bigger chunk of followers among DDS bloggers. Their showcasing Cayetano’s activities as Foreign Affairs secretary therefore have a purpose. Cayetano is making a case for his being favored by Duterte as his official presidential bet in 2022.

But his lugging around the DDS bloggers in his activities eventually proved to be his undoing in Kuwait, where they rescued distressed overseas Filipino workers without the knowledge of Kuwaiti authorities. The rescue operation wouldn’t have become controversial had not Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) personnel and DDS bloggers attempted to play it up in social media. It backfired.

Philippine-Kuwait relations got strained and the status of the around 260,000 OFWs in that Arab state got jeopardized. Cayetano used his glibness to get out of the controversy but he only sounded irritating, apparently more so to Kuwait officials who had to put up with his insincere apologizing. Thus, ambassador Renato Villa was expelled from Kuwait and some of those involved in the operation jailed.

Philippine-Kuwait relations have been salvaged, no thanks to Cayetano. When reports say that Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III and not Cayetano would head the Philippine delegation that held talks with Kuwait officials, I had the feeling something would be accomplished. Bello isn’t a glib talker like Cayetano but he is sharp and more importantly wasn’t there to advance a political ambition.

Has Cayetano lost his credibility as Foreign Affairs secretary after the Kuwait fiasco? That’s an interesting question whose answer we may know sooner rather than later.


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