Ambassador Lucenario: The Robredo of foreign service
He once wrote about how the nation was mourning Interior Secretary Jesse Robredo’s untimely death in a plane crash. He said the late Cabinet member, a fellow Bicolano, was a public servant worth emulating.
Little did he know that his own death, eerily in nearly the same fashion, would leave Filipinos in many parts of the world equally shocked and grieving.
Ambassador Domingo Lucenario Jr was killed when the helicopter carrying him and several other diplomats crashed into a school house in Gilgit, Pakistan, on May 7. The cause of the crash is still being investigated, although the Taliban was quick to claim that the helicopter was downed by one of its surface-to-air missiles.
The outpouring of love and grief that followed his death showed that the young ambassador, fondly called "Amba Doy" by many, was a civil servant in the mold of Robredo. Humble, hardworking, brilliant, and kind, Lucenario’s style of public service easily won the hearts of many at nearly all overseas posts where he served.
The plane carrying Lucenario’s remains flew into Villamor Air Base in Taguig City from Pakistan on May 13. Full military honors were accorded the diplomat. From there, his body was brought to the Heritage Memorial Park in Taguig City for the wake. Interment was set for Sunday, May 18, at the Holy Cross Memorial Park in Quezon City.
Lucenario was first posted to Germany. He subsequently went to Australia and then Hong Kong, where his star really shone. He served at this post from 2000 to 2004. Despite an offer of an extension, he asked to be recalled after clashing with his consul general over differences in management styles.
Despite not having any prior experience dealing with hordes of Filipino migrant workers and their attendant problems, Lucenario quickly learned the ropes while in Hong Kong, and then exceeded even himself.
He began meeting Filipino community groups through a monthly leaders’ forum, which he initiated, and attended innumerable gatherings on Sundays so he could better understand the migrant workers’ plight.
He also hooked up regularly with professional and business groups, while attending to the other demands of his job as deputy consul general, and sometimes acting head of post.
But what he was best known for in Hong Kong was the record number of registered voters set by the post for the first overseas absentee voting in 2004.
Through his relentless campaign, which included regular Saturday meetings with volunteer leaders and the launch of a mobile registration system, the total number of potential voters rose to 87,000, a number that has yet to be surpassed by any post to this day.
Back in Manila, he distinguished himself for giving the country its first machine-readable passport, which has now evolved to the e-passport that is compliant with international standards.
It was during his extended stay at the home office during this period that all 3 major awards from the President of the Philippines were bestowed on him: the Order of Sikatuna Award with the rank of Datu (Gold level, 2009); the Order of Lakandula Award with the rank of Grand Officer (Maringal na Pinuno, 2008); and the Gawad Mabini Award with the rank of Grand Officer (Dakilang Kamanong, 2008).
On his next posting abroad, he became ambassador to Kenya with concurrent jurisdiction over 12 African nations. He also became Philippine Permanent Representative to the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) and the United Nations Human Settlements Program (UN Habitat).
He was next assigned as ambassador to Pakistan, and non-resident ambassador to Afghanistan, Kyrgyzstan, and Tajikistan.
He was due to return to the head office in Manila in September this year, at the end of the standard 6-year tour of duty abroad.
A lawyer by profession, Lucenario obtained his law degree from San Beda College and his undergraduate diploma in political science from the Manuel L. Quezon University, magna cum laude. He also had a master’s in law degree from the University of Manila and was about to complete the requirements for a doctor in law degree from the University of Santo Tomas in 2011 when work pressure forced him to quit.
Lucenario is survived by his wife, lawyer Nida Arada Lucenario, and children Marien, Domingo III, and Dominique. He was 54, and had served the government for over 35 years, well over half of his life. – Rappler.com
Daisy Mandap is a veteran journalist, having worked for various newspapers and TV stations in the Philippines and in Hong Kong. She is also a lawyer and migrants rights activist.