FOREIGN Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano said he was willing to step down from his post if President Rodrigo Duterte or even majority of foreign service officers wanted him to resign, amid the diplomatic row between the Philippine and Kuwait brought by controversial rescue of distressed Filipino household service workers.
Cayetano said that as secretary of foreign affairs, it was his duty to implement the independent foreign policy of the country, build bridges with other nations and take care of Filipinos abroad, and if he couldn’t do it, he had not reason to stay in his post.
“If we’re not doing our job, we don’t deserve to be here,” said Cayetano in an interview with reporters on Wednesday night at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport.
The foreign secretary was reacting to the supposed call of DFA career diplomats for him and his appointees to resign for gross incompetence and poor handling of the rescue mission that led to the expulsion of Ambassador Renato Villa and issuance of arrest warrants against several Filipino diplomats in Kuwait.
While Cayetano said that he respected the calls for him to resign, critics should not use the name of the department and career officials without authorization.
The foreign affairs secretary said only a senator and a former congressman wanted him to quit.
“If the President wants me to go, I will go happily, and I will continue to support him. If a majority in the Department of Foreign Affairs says, ‘We cannot follow you,’ I have no business being there,” Cayetano added.
The DFA in a separate statement branded as “malicious” the news article claiming that career diplomats, who were not identified, were demanding Cayetano’s resignation because of his handling of the Kuwait situation.
The DFA also dismissed claims that a letter asking for the resignation of Cayetano and his appointees was sent to Malacañang, noting that the Office of the President has not seen such letter.
It added that the Union of Foreign Service Officers (Unifors), which is the organization representing the career corps, has been inactive.
“The alleged clamor by career officials for the Secretary to resign as contained in the supposed letter came from some who do not represent the views of the entire career Foreign Service Corps,” the DFA said in a statement.
Cayetano personally received Villa, who arrived late Wednesday night after he was declared as persona non-grata by the Kuwaiti government last week following the controversial rescue of overseas Filipino workers in the Persian Gulf state.
In a brief statement, Villa expressed hope that the Philippines could move forward and work together with Kuwait in securing the interest and well-being of overseas Filipino workers.
“I feel with pride and honor that I have been given the opportunity to serve our country, and most especially our fellow Filipinos in Kuwait for almost three years. I will always have fond memories of Kuwait and its hospitable people,” he said in a brief statement upon his arrival.
Three Filipino diplomats have been issued warrants of arrest by the Kuwait government in connection with rescue mission.
Cayetano said they were charged with kidnapping because of the rescue operation particularly for taking household workers from the homes of their employers.
“But we explained to them that we do not respond unless, first, we coordinate with them. That is why [out of]38 rescues, 35 were coordinated,” Cayetano explained.
As for the three uncoordinated actions, the DFA secretary said officials saw the need to act on the situation immediately, which he claimed was the duty of the Philippine government under international law.
But the Kuwaiti government, Cayetano said, did not share the same views, which was why he decided to apologize for the actions.
“At present they [Kuwait] said that this misunderstanding was brought about by exaggerated, isolated issues, and there’s a miscommunication. So we’re trying to fix that,” he added.