Department of Foreign Affairs

‘Democracy champion, patriot’: Former PH foreign secretary Albert del Rosario mourned

Michelle Abad

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‘Democracy champion, patriot’: Former PH foreign secretary Albert del Rosario mourned

FOREIGN AFFAIRS. Former Foreign Affairs secretary Albert del Rosario calls on ASEAN to exercise stronger leadership by emphasizing the rule of law, on November 8, 2017.

Alecs Ongcal/Rappler

(1st UPDATE) President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. hails the late Philippine foreign secretary Albert del Rosario as an 'honorable diplomat and an esteemed public servant'

MANILA, Philippines – Groups and institutions from the public and private sectors mourned the passing of former Philippine foreign secretary Albert del Rosario, who died on Tuesday, April 18. He was 83.

President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. released a statement on Tuesday afternoon, citing Del Rosario as an “honorable diplomat and an esteemed public servant.”

“I extend my deepest sympathies to the family and loved ones of Secretary Del Rosario, who was known for his patriotism and integrity. We thank his deep commitment to our national interest and his unwavering devotion to our shared values,” said Marcos.

Del Rosario received praises from institutions like the Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA), the Management Association of the Philippines, and the Stratbase ADR (Albert Del Rosario) Institute for Strategic and International Studies, which he chaired.

Stratbase said Del Rosario was a leader who “personified the highest level of statesmanship, integrity, and love of country” that inspired the people he worked with.

“He has been a champion of democratic values and a rules-based international order to sustain lasting peace, security, and prosperity for all. He has fought for an independent foreign policy that prioritizes the interests of the country and of the Filipino people,” said Stratbase.

“He believed that diplomacy is a great equalizer in international affairs and that each state had an equal voice in the global community regardless of their political, economic, or military capabilities,” it added.

Del Rosario served as the Philippine foreign secretary from 2011 to 2016 under the late former president Benigno Aquino III.

“He was part of a rare breed of political appointees at the DFA who gained the confidence of different presidents from opposing camps,” as he had also served as the Philippine ambassador to the United States in the Gloria Macapagal Arroyo administration, according to a profile published by Rappler.

Staunch advocate for security, welfare

In a statement on Tuesday, the DFA described Del Rosario as a “staunch advocate of protecting and advancing national security, and promoting the rights and welfare of Filipinos both in the Philippines and abroad.”

Del Rosario was behind the historic move to sue China for violating the Philippines’ rights in the West Philippine Sea. This case eventually led to the Permanent Court of Arbitration ruling in favor of the Philippines, where China’s claim over the so-called “nine-dash line” was invalidated.

Del Rosario continued to champion the Philippines’ claim after his time in government, up to the administration of Marcos.

On Wednesday, April 19, Senator Risa Hontiveros filed Resolution No. 572 honoring the memory of Del Rosario, as well as his work that led to the Philippines’ landmark Hague ruling victory.

“Del Rosario will be remembered most for being at the helm of the Philippine victory in the Hague…. this ruling earned its place in the annals of international law, and has shown the world that a country like the Philippines can assert and protect its rights over its territory and resources, even in the face of conflicting claims from a global giant like China,” the resolution read.

“Aside from being a tenacious and wise diplomat, Del Rosario was also a public servant of untarnished integrity and moral certitude,” Hontiveros wrote.

House Deputy Speaker Ralph Recto paid tribute to Del Rosario, saying, “There was no better advocate of Philippine interest, no braver defender of our OFWs, no bolder champion of our sovereignty than him when he was the Republic’s top diplomat.”

Recto brought up the degree of admiration and respect Del Rosario earned, locally and globally.

“He was eloquent in speech and refined in manners. Whether it was to cooperate with governments or contest their actions, he articulated our position in a convincing but dignified way, earning for him the admiration of peers, and for the country the respect of nations,” said Recto.

Senate Minority Leader Aquilino Pimentel III and senators Francis Tolentino, Chiz Escudero, and Joel Villanueva praised Del Rosario’s service to the country. 

Villanueva recalled his time working with Del Rosario during the Aquino administration, when Villanueva led the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority.

“He may have passed on, but his legacy and achievements are permanently inked in the history of our nation,” said Villanueva.

Pimentel also noted Del Rosario’s contributions to the insurance sector, where he also spent some time of his career.

“He loved our country, courageously defended our country’s interests, and made our foreign service more active and felt. He also contributed to the growth of the private sector through his contributions in the insurance sector where he was a stalwart,” said Pimentel.

In a statement on Thursday, April 20, Migrant Workers Secretary Susan Ople cited Del Rosario as one of her “role models” in looking after migrant workers’ rights and welfare.

“He could have monitored the mass evacuation of our OFWs from Libya to Tunisia from the comfort and safety of his stately office at the DFA, but he didn’t. He chose to be at the Tunisian border, at tremendous risk to his own life, thus making every distressed worker at that time feel safe and cared for,” said Ople.

Before becoming migrant workers secretary, Ople was with nongovernment organization Blas F. Ople Policy Center and Training Institute. She recalled that Del Rosario “would always lend an ear” to the concerns of non-profits and other rights groups, and remained accessible to them even after leaving government.

“He spoke softly but always with compassion in his eyes for our OFWs and their families,” Ople said. She added that she “never felt intimidated” as a migrant workers’ rights advocate to discuss cases of abuse and exploitation of OFWs with the late diplomat.

The Management Association of the Philippines also condoled with the Del Rosario family. It mentioned its conferment of its “MAP Management Man of the Year” award to Del Rosario in 2014 for “raising the standards of economic diplomacy by pursuing an independent and principled foreign policy.”

MAP also said Del Rosario stood firmly in staunchly defending the country’s national interest.

“He has set a leadership example that Filipino professional managers should emulate through his track record of integrity, professional competence, and strong leadership in his management career both in public and private sectors,” said MAP president Benedicta Du-Baladad, calling the late diplomat a “genuine patriot.”

‘A man who stood for what was right’

The political group Akbayan extended its condolences to Del Rosario’s loved ones.

The group hailed Del Rosario as a “patriot, a friend, and defender of democracy.”

“But Secretary Del Rosario was so much more than these things. He was, above all, a man who stood for what was right, exemplifying what is best in every Filipino,” said Akbayan.

Akbayan noted the Philippines’ historic Hague ruling victory, and how Del Rosario was a “cornerstone” of that victory. For Akbayan, the Hague ruling is the most significant diplomatic victory for the Philippines in recent memory.

“We had the honor of standing alongside him, in both principle and in practice, on the issues of our national sovereignty and the welfare of overseas Filipino workers. We will never forget you. And we will uphold your memory by continuing the struggle for a fairer, kinder, and more just nation, that sheds the light of hope upon the dreams of all,” said Akbayan.

On Tuesday, Metro Pacific Investments Corporation informed the Securities and Exchange Commission of the cessation of Del Rosario’s term as director. He was a director of the investment holding company from May 2016.

“It is with deep sadness that we inform the Commission, the Exchange, and the investing public of the passing of Mr. Albert F. del Rosario, a non-executive director of Metro Pacific Investments Corporation…. We are deeply grateful for his valuable contributions to the Company. The Company wishes to extend its deepest sympathies to Mr. del Rosario’s family,” the announcement read. –

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Michelle Abad

Michelle Abad is a multimedia reporter at Rappler. She covers overseas Filipinos, the rights of women and children, and local governments.