Philippine Ambassador to Washington Jose Cuisia Jr. may have violated certain provisions of the Foreign Service Act when he took on official positions in several private companies in the country, an official of the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) told The Manila Times on Monday.
The official, who refused to be identified, said ambassadors are not allowed to hold positions in private companies “to avoid and prevent situations where their being the country’s representative might be compromised by commercial and personal interests.”
Cuisia, according to the column of former Ambassador Rigoberto Tiglao in The Manila Times, holds several high-ranking positions in private companies such as SM Prime Holdings, Philippine Investment Management Inc. (Phinma), American Life and General Insurance, Ayalas’ Manila Water Co., Holcim Philippines, Integra Business Processing Solutions, ICCP Holdings, Beacon Property Ventures and The Covenant Car Company.
Tiglao said that Cuisia actively attends board meetings and is engaged in the running of the companies where he is also named as chair of some of its most vital committees like SM Prime’s Risk Management and Audit Committee and Phinma’s compensation committee. He said that because of the sheer number of board meetings that Cuisia has to attend in the Philippines, the ambassador is out of his US post from three days to a week every month.
Cuisia, Tiglao said, is also a member of Phinma’s executive board and of SM Prime’s Nomination Committee.
The envoy’s monthly travels requires the approval of the President and Foreign Affairs Secretary
“The foreign secretary has to formally issue a document appointing a chargé d’affaires, or the official in charge of the Embassy while he ambassador is away. Not only that. The embassy has to report to the State Department (or the foreign affairs ministry in other countries) that the ambassador is not in the country, and that the chargé d’affaires will temporarily represent the nation. I doubt if Cuisia bothered with these required documentation.
”All these paper work only emphasizes the fact that part of an ambassador’s job description is that he can leave his post only for official reasons or in an emergency. I wonder how Cuisia justified his board meetings with Phinma, SM and the other eight companies as “attending to official matters,” Tiglao, who was once the country’s ambassador to Greece, said.
The source told The Times that “[being]chair of private companies could also divide their [ambassadors’] attention.”
The only exception, the official said, is if the President allowed a political appointee an arrangement where the ambassador can keep his or her positions in private companies even if the envoy is still in his foreign posting.
This arrangement is not available to a career ambassador.
Cuisia is a political appointee of President Benigno Aquino 3rd. His papers were signed in November 2010 after he accompanied Mr. Aquino as a member of the business delegation in his September 2010 trip to Washington.
An ambassador acts as the President’s “alter ego,” the source added, which requires him or her to represent the country in the best way possible.