Can a maverick gadfly like Teddy Locsin Jr last in the United Nations?
NEW YORK, USA – Maybe you can say the same thing about Teddy Locsin Jr that Barack Obama said about Rodrigo Duterte.
Locsin Jr. was a spokesperson for then President Corazon Aquino and went on to represent Makati in the Lower House from 2001 to 2010.
An acerbic columnist, no one could ever accuse Locsin Jr of being dull.
Hitting the ground running after his appointment as ambassador to the UN, he seems to have adopted the persona of Duterte as far as antagonizing whole groups of people are concerned.
The tweets by Locsin were perceived by most to be defending the tactics used by the Nazis, including adoption of the “Final Solution” in solving some of the problems faced by the Philippines.
Many were deleted later on, with Locsin half joking that his daughters had told him to stay away from Twitter.
Rappler tried to get in touch with people close to Locsin to see if it would be possible to talk to him about what happened. The request was politely turned down.
The whole episode raised the question whether he is the right person to be the Philippine ambassador to the United Nations.
The presidential system the country functions under gives very wide latitude to the choices the chief executive makes.
By long tradition, the President appoints many of his political supporters to be the ambassador in the major diplomatic posts around the world – from Washington to London, the Vatican to the UN in New York.
Those are the perks of being close to the president, qualified or not.
Would it be ideal to appoint someone from the ranks of the career diplomats who have worked their way up in the system? Yes. But it never works out that way.
Still, the tweets sent out by Locsin have raised misgivings for some members of the Filipino-American community. Several demurred when asked for their reaction to the controversy.
“I ignored the initial reports of Locsin’s tweets because I thought to myself ‘Surely, these are just doctored social media images. No way would he actually say that’,” said Steven Raga, a community leader in Queens who had won his first run for public office there.
Lumen Castaneda, a retired teacher, added: “I am disgustingly disappointed with what he is posting in twitter. I was asking myself, is this the Teodoro Locsin Jr who I admire? Is he the same one saying those f...... words in social media? Is he following the boss of the country? Now I have my doubts that he is suited to the job given to him. But I still want to give him the benefit of the doubt.”
Merit Salud, another community leader in New York, feels Locsin should eventually be able to get past his Nazi-themed tweets once the furore recedes into history.
“I think (his) appointment is simply timely and appropriate. President Duterte needs someone with the right credentials and temperament not quite far from him, who passionately loves the Philippines,” he said.
The background of Locsin could also help a government that has been slammed for its cavalier approach to human rights in a drug war that has claimed 3,000 lives and is willing to slaughter 3 million more.
“He is from the elite society of the Philippines, educated in Ateneo and Harvard. This means he could very well saunter effectively within the high-brow milieu of the international society of the UN. We have seen his sharp wit in writing and his probing mind on matters that count. His connection with Harvard will be of good help to him and for the people and country when he performs his job and executes his duties as our representative to the UN,” added Salud.
Castaneda also expressed her respect for Locsin.
“Long before Duterte, I was an admirer of Teddy Boy Locsin. He is a good writer, and he was a silent worker to my knowledge in the sense that I did not hear a lot of controversies about him,” she said.
“When he refused a cabinet position offered by the president, I gave him a 9 and when he accepted the position of Ambassador to the UN, I said YES. I have high regards to our ambassadors to the UN beginning with (Hilario) Davide, Libran Cabactulan, and now Yparaguirre.”
Salud hopes Locsin “will be circumscribed by his love for country and his desire to keep the legacy of his father and the Locsin family.”
“We need the Fil-Am community here to air responsible criticisms so as not to push them into on an overly defensive corner. And that could be one of the purposes why he was appointed in the first place.”
The misgivings are there though.
Raga said after verifying the accuracy of the tweets, “I was both confused and embarrassed. ‘Confused’ because you would think that being a former Philippine congressman and journalist sufficiently trains you to say the right thing at the right time.”
“The embarrassment is self-explanatory. Filipinos and Filipino Americans in New York have contributed much to the cultural and social fabric of America, while still heavily involved in philanthropy and advocacy efforts in the Philippines, many of which are through the United Nations itself. Either we deserve Mr. Locsin to better represent us, or we deserve a better Philippine Ambassador to the United Nations.” – Rappler.com
Rene Pastor is a journalist in the New York metropolitan area who writes about agriculture, politics and regional security. He was, for many years, a senior commodities journalist for Reuters. He founded the Southeast Asia Commodity Digest. He is known for his extensive knowledge of international affairs, agriculture and the El Niño phenomenon where his views have been quoted in news reports.