Lawyer-diplomat leaves PHL Mission to become DFA legal advisor

Ambassador Eduardo de Vega speaking at a United Nations meeting

Ambassador Eduardo de Vega speaking at a United Nations meeting

By Wendell Gaa

Ambassador Eduardo de Vega, may have recently departed his post as Deputy Permanent Representative of the Philippine Mission to the United Nations. But he leaves behind a lasting impression on those who have worked with him. “Dedicated,” “humble,” and “fully committed” to the Philippine foreign service are but some of the words used by colleagues to describe this diplomat with a career spanning 30 years.

Many of us in the New York region had seen him in the background, providing quiet, dignified support to his wife, Ma. Theresa Dizon-de Vega, the former Deputy Consul General of the Philippine Consulate.

As a close friend of the ambassador, I can attest to the facts about him. He is the son of the late Guillermo de Vega, who was a Presidential Assistant of President Ferdinand Marcos, with the rank of Cabinet Secretary, in charge of preparing documents for the President’s appointment of officials. He was tragically assassinated while working in his office in Malacañang Palace in Manila on Oct. 27, 1975. At the time, Ed was only 11 years old. Surely, he must be looking down from heaven upon his son with much pride over what he has accomplished within a very productive life.

De Vega joined the Philippine Mission to the UN in July 2011 initially to serve as head of the Second Committee which deals with economic, financial and environmental matters. About a year later, he took up his role as Deputy Permanent Representative which is the second highest ranking position at the UN Mission right after the Permanent Representative himself, Ambassador Libran Cabactulan. In both official roles, de Vega has stated that his proudest accomplishment was just being constantly present at the office and displaying his commitment to performing his duties “day after day, week after week, month after month, and year after year.”

His chief goal as a public servant has always been to make sure that Juan de la Cruz got his money’s worth in paying for his salaries and allowances as a Philippine diplomat, especially when having the privilege of being assigned to such a highly coveted foreign posting as New York. He cannot ever recall more than two or three days throughout his stint here when he took a leave from office work, even counting the times that he may have been ill and should not have come to work.

“That’s the example I wish to set to my colleagues, because we all owe it to our countrymen. That’s something any person can aspire for, including any member of the Filipino community: put in your honest day’s work at the office,” he said.

Of course there were his tangible achievements, including speaking before the UN international body to present Philippine positions on various issues. Of particular significance was being the officer chiefly responsible for the adoption by the UN of a resolution declaring 2014 as the International Year of Family Farming. He was relatively new at the Mission when this resolution — which aims to assist smallholder farmers around the world — was being worked on back in 2011. He said the resolution will further complement the Philippines’ own agrarian reform efforts.

Another moment of pride was responding personally to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s statement before the international body in November 2013, calling on the world body to show solidarity for the Philippines in light of the destruction and havoc caused by Typhoon Haiyan (Yolanda).

“I said that while we Filipinos were overwhelmed by the magnitude of the disaster, we were also overwhelmed by the magnitude of the generosity and solidarity shown to us by the world’s peoples. The reaction by my diplomatic colleagues, and their continued promises to aid in the relief effort, were most rewarding,” he remarked.

Prior to his New York assignment, he has been assigned in various capacities at our Philippine embassies in Tel Aviv, Israel; Mexico City, Mexico; and in Washington, D.C. (where he was privileged to serve under my father Ambassador Willy C. Gaa). In his first assignment as Head of Post, he served as Consul General at the Philippine Consulate in Barcelona, Spain, just right before arriving in New York.

Although his stint in Washington, D.C. may have only been a year (2007-2008), he had the pleasure of serving as the embassy’s Legislative Liaison Officer, coordinating with the U.S. Congress on the important matter of the long-awaited recognition and monetary compensation for our Filipino World War II veterans. Before he left D.C. to assume his posting in Barcelona in June 2008, he was able to be part of the government team which worked for and saw the historic passage in April 2008 by the US Senate of a Veterans’ Bill which finally provided due recognition and benefits for our veterans.

“I was in fact there observing the proceedings with the embassy team at the august halls of the U.S. Senate, and felt overwhelmed by the moment. Eventually, this Senate bill became part of a total package which was included in the U.S. Recovery and Reinvestment Act signed by President Obama in 2009,” he said.

The De Vegas in a 2008 Christmas photo in Barcelona

The De Vegas in a 2008 Christmas photo in Barcelona

In spite of his constantly busy schedule with the UN Mission, De Vega has found quality time to spend with his family – his wife Tess and their young daughter Monsie. Among the sightseeing attractions they’ve thoroughly enjoyed exploring included the ever-exciting Times Square, Rockefeller Center, Central Park and even as far upstate as the presidential library/museum in Hyde Park, home to one of America’s greatest wartime leaders ever, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Additionally they’ve also enjoyed watching numerous Broadway shows, classical music festivals at Lincoln Center, and even a few Mets/Yankees baseball games together. I’ve personally had the pleasure to join them on quite a few occasions on their city escapades!

Reflecting on how much he would miss New York as both a diplomatic posting and hub for cultural entertainment, he only had to say, “As someone who loves classical music, the opera, books, sports, movies and so much more, I have personally experienced how New York really has everything to offer anyone ready to enjoy the wonders of the city.”

The next chapter in the ambassador’s illustrious career will be to head the legal office of the Department of Foreign Affairs in Manila as Assistant Secretary for Legal Affairs. With his legal background, he is surely qualified to take on the demands of such an important position.

In his excitement, he said, “It is the dream of many lawyer-diplomats to be named Legal Advisor for their Foreign Ministries, and I am privileged to have this honor.”

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: