DFA leadership transitions from ‘twiplomacy’ back to quiet diplomacy



PRESIDENT Marcos’ first day in office started with the oath-taking of his newest Cabinet appointee, Enrique Manalo as his top diplomat.

Manalo, a career diplomat, was warmly welcomed by the foreign service upon his arrival at the DFA headquarters in Pasay City. He flew in from New York supposedly in time for the inauguration of President Marcos Thursday but his flight arrived late in the afternoon.

Raised by two seasoned diplomats and with 40 years of exposure to the international stage, Manalo will probably conduct the traditional way of doing diplomacy — quiet, discreet, sober, a lot of backdoor channeling to find more elbow room for flexibility (and deniability) in negotiations. 

It would be in contrast to the Twitter diplomacy his predecessor Teodoro Locsin Jr. pioneered. Locsin, with 678,300 followers, had been in social media almost 24/7, commenting on issues, answering queries on passports or visas, or requests for help from OFWs, issuing orders to DFA officials, and occasionally calling out people he found stupid. Locsin was especially active at the height of the pandemic, when he had to lead multi-country campaigns to source vaccines against Covid-19, and when many OFWs were stranded from lockdowns in many parts of the world.

Manalo only has a personal Facebook account but rarely posts there. His office, the Philippine Permanent Mission to the United Nations in New York has Twitter  and Facebook (@PHMissionNY) which regularly tweets or posts his official functions and speeches.

“Professionally speaking, we will need to deal with a new SFA who probably will not be as ‘active,’ and how to deal with ex-SFA Locsin who will probably continue to speak his mind on foreign policy matters,” a senior official told BusinessMirror.

Locsin said it would be unfair to expect his successor to follow suit on his twiplomacy tack. “No, to each his own,” Locsin told BusinessMirror. 

He said he had recommended to President Marcos that a career diplomat be named his successor, noting that Marcos has a “high respect for technocrats” like his father, the late President Ferdinand Marcos. 

Technically, Manalo is already a political appointee, as he retired in 2018. But foreign service officials didn’t care, he is still considered as one of them.

The last career diplomat who headed the DFA was Domingo Siazon Jr. from 1995 till 2001. Manalo briefly headed the DFA ad interim after Perfecto Yasay’s appointment was rejected by the Commission on Appointments in 2017. 

“The President couldn’t have chosen a better SFA — a career diplomat with experience in all the pillars of foreign relations, erudite, level-headed, fair, and with a dash of dry humor here and there,” DFA Assistant Secretary Elizabeth Buensuceso said in her Facebook post.

Manalo had served as DFA undersecretary for policy twice. As undersecretary for policy, all Philippine positions in bilateral or multilateral fora passed through him, before foreign affairs secretary takes them to consideration. Before leaders and foreign affairs ministers meet, he had to sit down with his fellow senior officials to iron out the most sticky issues so that there will be less bickering when leaders meet.

Community leaders where Manalo was posted also sent congratulatory messages in his Facebook wall. He had been Philippine ambassador to the United Kingdom and Belgium, and first secretary and consul at The Philippine Embassy in Washington DC.

“A well-deserved appointment,” Jimmy Almodovar, founding president of Philippine Nurses Association in Ireland, wrote.

Secretary Manalo holds a Master of Arts and a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Economics from the University of the Philippines, Diliman.

In recognition of his exceptional service to the country, he was awarded the Order of Lakandula with rank of Grand Cross (Bayani) in 2018, the Gawad Mabini with rank of Grand Cross (Dakilang Kamanong) in 2017, and the Order of Sikatuna with the rank of Grand Cross (Datu) in 2010.

He is married to Pamela Louise Hunt and has two sons.



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