Supporters urge DFA: Retain Congen Elmer Cato

‘He made himself available to everyone by phone, email, on Facebook,’ say his supporters. Photo by Ronie Mataquel

By Cristina DC Pastor

Supporters of Consul General Elmer Cato are not taking his pending departure well.

They urged the Department of Foreign Affairs to keep him at his current post in New York and denounced the “plotters (who) have opted to concoct unsubstantiated stories” against the embattled congen.

A petition circulating within the community called Cato’s imminent transfer to Milan, Italy “a misguided move” by the DFA. The petition is signed by Crispin Fernandez, MD, president of F.I.L.I.P.I.N.A.S. or the Federation of Independent Legions of Immigrant Philippine Americans in the North Americas. A copy was sent to The FilAm.

Part of the petition,  addressed to Foreign Secretary Enrique Manalo, reads: “What is to be gained by refusing to retain Consul General Elmer G. Cato at his current post? Does the appointment of a new Consul General in New York seem so overwhelmingly compelling as to warrant this order for Consul General Elmer Cato to advise the Filipino community under his jurisdiction to stop their call to action? Finally, is it the prevailing belief that that same community is beholden to the Consul General? That they acquiesce to his every whim? That they derive vested benefits in the process? Or is it quite possible that those who have inspired his ouster and have the ear of the influential few are the ones with questionable motives?…

“Retain Consul General Elmer G. Cato at his current post until the Filipino community requests for his replacement, not a day sooner, and graciously receive our heartfelt gratitude. Retain Consul General Elmer Cato at his current post. This is the only winning strategy left. In the final analysis, relenting in favor of the Filipino people serves us all, our common faith and confidence in government; while success for the few who are married to the idea of reassigning Consul General Elmer G. Cato serves but the will of the very few.”

Fernandez told The FilAm the DFA appears to be under the impression that Cato is orchestrating acts of resistance by his followers. He vehemently denied this. He said there is no actual cease-and-desist order on paper but such is “implied in a verbal order to Cato to stop advocating for retaining (him) in his current post.”

Supporters of Cato believe he has done a lot for the community since he took over. They said he introduced reforms in consular services and made them more responsive to the needs of FilAms. They are proud that he  made the Filipino American voice heard at the height of the anti-Asian violence.  They said the consulate for a time has been led by a series of congens who did not stay long in their posts and did not have enough time for meaningful interactions with the community. Cato, they said, changed that.

“He made himself available to everyone by phone, text, email, on Facebook,” said one head of a community organization.  “He was reachable to everyone.”

Another leader said his experience with Cato was “good.”

“First time I had the experience of a congen willing to spend time answering questions from an organization,” he said. “Never, never did I get to have a congen do a Zoom call or meet an organization and address questions from regular members.”

Cato’s troubles began in early September when he was called back to the home office “for consultations.” That was a week before President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. was to arrive in New York for the UN General Assembly. From that time on it was widely speculated he was not returning to New York. He came back in late October and announced he was being given a new assignment in Milan, Italy. The circumstances behind the consultations remain vague.

Cato said he was given 60 days to finalize his departure and told his supporters he is leaving NYC “like a true soldier.”

© The FilAm 2022

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