New ConGen Elmer Cato assumes post amid escalating anti-Asian violence in N.Y.

A career diplomat for 22 years.

Three things journalist-turned-diplomat Elmer Cato did when his appointment as Consul General in New York became official on March 30: He visited family and friends in Queens; he rolled up his sleeves and got himself vaccinated; he attended Easter Sunday mass at the Church of St. Vincent Ferrer on the Upper East Side.

Cato’s assignment comes at a time when the Filipino American community is struggling with rising anti-Asian violence. Some FilAms have faced assaults, including Noel Quintana whose face was slashed ear to ear while he was on a subway train, and Vilma Kari who was beaten up while on her way to church.

“At Easter Sunday Mass, I included the members of the Filipino and Asian community in the United States in my prayers,” he shared on Facebook.

Cato, a career diplomat with the rank of Chief of Mission Class II, succeeds Consul General Petronila Garcia who retired in January. Garcia held the post for a little more than five months.

Cato arrived from Libya where he served for two years as Chargé d’Affaires, e.p. and Head of Mission of the Philippine Embassy in Tripoli. A journalist before joining the foreign service, he had served in various capacities in the Philippines and abroad in the past 22 years.

Enjoying Taho with Sago at Little Manila. Facebook photo

His first overseas posting was at the Permanent Mission of the Philippines to the United Nations from 2003 to 2010 where he also served as a member of the Philippine Delegation to the UN Security Council from 2004 to 2005.

Cato was assigned to the Philippine Embassy in Washington, D.C. from 2012 until he volunteered to go to Iraq where he served as Chargé d’Affaires, e.p. and Head of Mission in Baghdad from 2015 to 2018.

At the Home Office, he served as Foreign Affairs Assistant Secretary for Public Diplomacy and later for Strategic Communications during the terms of Foreign Affairs Secretaries Alan Peter Cayetano and Teodoro Locsin, Jr. from 2018 to 2019.

During the term of Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert Del Rosario, Cato was designated Special Assistant for Special Projects at the Office of Administration; Director for Intelligence of the Intelligence and Security Unit under the Office of the Secretary; and Executive Director of the National Council on United Nations Peace Operations from 2010 to 2012.

Cato served as Special Assistant for Foreign Affairs Secretary Domingo L. Siazon, Jr. and Teofisto T. Guingona; spokesperson and Officer-in-Charge of the Presidential Commission on the Visiting Forces Agreement; and as Officer in Charge of the Regional Consular Office in San Fernando and Clark Field, Pampanga.

Consul General Cato is a recipient of the Gawad Mabini, one of the highest awards bestowed on Filipino diplomats, for initiating the public-private partnership that led to the transfer of consular offices to shopping malls across the country.

He joined the Department of Foreign Affairs in 1998 after passing the Foreign Service Officers Examination of 1996. Before joining the Foreign Service, he was a journalist for 17 years who started as a 16-year-old cub reporter. He was also an overseas worker in Jeddah and Jakarta.  

© The FilAm 2021

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