By Bernice Camille V. Bauzon and Jefferson Antiporda Reporters
EMBATTLED Philippine Consul General to Canada Jose Ampeso was able to solicit at least $40,000 from the Alberta government and other organizations for the Philippine
Red Cross (PRC), United Nationalist Alliance (UNA) senatorial candidate Richard Gordon has disclosed.
Gordon, who is also chairman of the PRC, has admitted that Ampeso was able to secure a donation for the PRC from groups such as the one established by former Filipino Olympic boxer Reynaldo Fortaleza.
According to him, he and Ampeso are “very close.”
“Joey Ampeso has been helping the Red Cross for so long now and I have documents to prove it,” Gordon told The Manila Times.
He said that the videotape showing Ampeso berating a passport applicant in Canada over a $1 donation to the PRC is “very unfair for him.”
The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) is waiting for the affidavit of complaint that will be filed against Ampeso before a formal investigation could begin.
Raul Hernandez, Foreign Affairs spokesman, said in a press briefing that Ampeso will have to face a fact-finding panel which will determine if there’s a case against him.
The decision of the panel will be submitted to the board of foreign service, which will then forward the recommendations to Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario who earlier expressed dismay over Ampeso’s undiplomatic conduct.
“It would be preferable for him to go through investigation and leave the explaining to the panel,” Hernandez said.
Ampeso came under fire after Canada-based Filipino Proceso Flordeliz Jr. complained about Ampeso’s behavior during a fund-raising activity held at a hotel in Alberta in Canada.
It was learned that Ampeso allegedly berated Flordeliz after the later donated $1 in the said activity.
Ampeso’s unpleasant behavior was caught on camera. The 27-second video was later posted on YouTube.
Ampeso initially said that he felt insulted when the applicant offered to give a dollar to the fund-raising efforts for the PRC, which was supposedly for typhoon victims.
But for Del Rosario, asking for donations from the Filipino community in behalf of the PRC is improper for officials of the Consulate.
In an earlier press briefing, the secretary said he asked Ampeso to go back to the country and explain himself, so he will be able to understand the consul’s actions.
Ampeso already arrived in Manila on Monday.
“I think it’s improper [donation]. I think it is inappropriate. He has to explain for me to understand,” the DFA chief said.
Del Rosario said though that he prefers to “hold judgment” until the department conducts an investigation.
“It is only fair to everyone that we do that,” he said.
Although Ampeso already apologized, del Rosario said he still needs to explain himself.
“The view of the DFA is that all of our people must project professional conduct and behavior. Nothing less is acceptable. We have viewed his behavior and we have asked him to come back and explain himself. An investigation will follow,” del Rosario said.
The secretary admitted Ampeso may be forced to retire earlier than scheduled. The consul was supposed to leave the Foreign Service later this year or early next year.
Meanwhile, Gordon defended Ampeso by saying that the envoy has been very sincere in supporting the cause of the PRC and that people should not judge Ampeso based on the video clip posted on the internet.
“He [Ampeso] is very passionate in helping the Red Cross and I have proof how dedicated he is,” Gordon said.
The PRC chair hopes that the issue will not be blown out of proportion considering that it is the first time that Ampeso was involved in such kind of incident.
While Gordon has been very active in the Red Cross, critics taunt him for allegedly using his position for political reasons.
“I don’t need to clarify anything about my involvement with the Red Cross. I’m with the Red Cross since I was a kid. My passion is very high they can look at my record,” he pointed out.
Gordon and Ampeso are reportedly fraternity brothers and the latter has been helping the former in his political career.
In the past, Ampeso was involved in a couple of controversies including a sexual harassment case filed against him by former presidential daughter Luli Arroyo in the late 1990s.
Since then, sources said the agency was unable to promote Ampeso to an ambassadorial
post despite being “brilliant.”
Arroyo, the eldest daughter of former president and now Pampanga Rep. Gloria Arroyo,
allegedly blocked an application for promotion of the consul.
Del Rosario had refused to comment on Ampeso’s past transgressions and also reserved
his reactions when asked if the consul is still fit for the post.
“I think that will be determined and we’ll have to see the results of the investigation. He’s a career official and he has served for many years and as matter of fact, he is scheduled to retire sometime this year,” he said.
The secretary still cannot say if Ampeso could lose his job because of the incident but there are different sanctions for career officials, depending on the severity of the actions done.