Philippine Ambassador to Washington Jose Cuisia Jr. had the “expressed authorization” of Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario to retain his positions in several private companies in the Philippines while attending to his duties as envoy to the world’s superpower.
The Philippine Embassy in Washington on Tuesday denied the assertions made by former Ambassador Rigoberto Tiglao in his column published by The Manila Times earlier this week against Cuisia.
In a letter, Elmer Cato, the embassy’s first secretary and consul, said that the points raised by Mr. Tiglao were “completely false.”
He said that Cuisia, an appointee of President Benigno Aquino 3rd, was allowed to retain these positions while attending to his diplomatic duties.
“His directorship in the boards of private companies is not violative of existing regulations and does not interfere in the effective performance of his duties,” Raul Hernandez, Foreign Affairs spokesman, said.
“He has the permission from the Department of Foreign Affairs to attend annual general membership meetings in the Philippines,” he added.
A source earlier told The Times, however, that such an exemption can only be granted by the President.
In his column, Mr. Tiglao asserted that the envoy attended meetings of the board of several companies he is involved with in Manila while leaving his post in Washington. The column revealed the envoy is part of companies such as PhilamLife, Phinma, SM Prime Holdings, Manila Water Co. and Car Covenant Company.
But Cato denied that Cuisia is often in the Philippines since he stays in Washington to oversee Philippine-US relations and attends to issues in other territories where he has jurisdiction.
The envoy only made three trips to the Philippines in 2011, three in 2012 and four in 2013.
“All the trips were for short duration and could be verified with the Bureau of Immigration,” Cato said, adding that proper procedures in temporarily leaving one’s post were observed during these short visits to the Philippines.
He also noted that Cuisia paid with his own money during personal trips, including the visit to Sydney to visit his ailing brother.
Cato insisted that three of the four trips the envoy made to Manila this year were official in nature—the annual meeting of the US-Philippines Society and the high-level investment mission in January, the 8th Ambassadors, Consul Generals and Tourism Directors Tour and the Annual Consultations of the US heads of posts in July and the supposed upcoming visit of US President Barack Obama just two weeks ago.
When it comes to his corporate responsibilities, Cato said the envoy attends to these meetings via video or teleconferencing in his residence “before or after office hours.” He maintained that the ambassador does not have to be physically present in these meetings.
He said Mr. Tiglao’s concerns were “exaggerated.”
“There could be no conflict of interest as none of the corporations Ambassador Cuisia is involved in have dealings with the embassy nor does the embassy regulate, supervise or license any of these companies,” Cato said.
“The ambassador has always observed the highest standards of professionalism and integrity as the country’s envoy and has never used his position to give the companies he is involved in any undue advantage,” he added.
Cuisia’s involvement with these private companies has never prejudiced his duties as an ambassador, and that he remains committed to his oath to protect and promote the Philippines’ national interest, Cato said.