Anti-Marcos Rebel Diplomat

Community News & Features Aug 12, 2011 at 1:54 pm

CONGEN CHAN at the Making Waves Fest, Aug. 7, Dundas Square

By Riza Khamal

A down-to-earth man, who has a smile for every person he encounters, that is the Philippine government’s representative in Toronto, Consul General Pedro O. Chan. He has the charisma that welcomes everyone, which is not surprising for a genuine public servant.

“I’m a warrior. I don’t recognize ‘friends’ when it comes to service,” says ConGen, implying that everyone is equal to him when it comes to service. A friend is not favoured over anyone whom he doesn’t personally know in terms of getting service from a public office under his administration.

“A public servant must not engage in any monetary transactions. Mababa man ang sweldo, the power that you have while in position to help others should be reward enough.”

Also, besides the smiles, little that we know this man is a hero.

During his tenure in Los Angeles Consulate in USA, ConGen Chan was one of the Filipino diplomats who bravely joined the revolution against the two decades of tyranny and dictatorial rule of the Marcoses in February 1986.

A graduate of the University of the Philippines, ConGen Chan was aware of the injustices that happened and escalated during the administration of then President Ferdinand E. Marcos.

Prior to his service in the Department of Foreign Affairs, ConGen Chan was in the academe, a part-time Instructor who taught English Literature in UP for three years.

“I never thought that I was going to be in government,” counts ConGen.

But wanting to serve more, he applied and was hired at the Department of Labor and Employment as Senior Executive Assistant, a position that way up than what he applied for.

With a heart for the masa, the disappointment he has in the service of the Labour department to the public, made him leave his job after three years. He then took the Foreign Service Officer (FSO) exam and successfully passed and served in DFA, as Special Assistant to Gen. Carlos P. Romulo, DFA chief.

Memorable posting, LA revolution

After a long wait to be deployed to serve the Filipinos overseas, Chan was finally sent to Los Angeles as a vice consul. Barely two years into his first foreign posting, and was an acting Consul General of L.A. Consulate when the February 1986 revolution happened.

Without a second thought, when he got the call from Serge Osmena III on February 22, 1986, he agreed to join the revolt. As he puts it, “Matagal ko na itong hinihintay.”

As the peaceful EDSA revolution was developing in Manila, the uprising in LA was also spreading, although second to Hawaii in breaking away from the government of Marcos, many believed that it was LA Consulate, under ConGen Chan who started the widespread separation of the Philippine offices overseas from the Marcos administration.

The LA revolt was not only witnessed by the Filipino community in the US but was followed by the whole world, as media were keeping an eye in the development of the event, and were interviewing ConGen Chan, on behalf of the breakaway group.

Not disregarding the Marcos loyalists who could act against the breakaway group, securing the Consulate office in LA was not an easy task as well, according to ConGen Chan, although till the end of the revolt the premises were kept safe.

Although many joined ConGen Chan and the other anti-Marcos in the uprising, there were some who expressed aversion to the act, one of whom was the Ambassador to Washington, who was his kababayan from Leyte. Due to his action, ConGen Chan was informed that he and ConGen Rabe in Honolulu were dropped off from the list of lineal rosters of officers by DFA in Manila. (As a result, he was not promoted from the rank of career minister for 15 years.)

Three days later, the Filipino community in LA along with the Filipinos in EDSA were in euphoria for they victoriously succeeded against the Marcoses, who finally left Malacanang. On February 26, 1986, EDSA Revolution marked history as Corazon Aquino, was sworn into office as President of the Philippines. Pres. Aquino was the widow of the late Sen. Benigno “Ninoy” Aquino, a known anti-Marcos who was killed at the tarmac of Manila International Airport (now NAIA) on a fateful Aug. 21, 1983 as soon as he got off the airplane from overseas.

Consul General Pedro Chan (right) receiving his Knights of Rizal certificate.

Marcos-watch

After leading the revolt in LA and being called a rebellious diplomat, his mission with the Marcoses didn’t end in Los Angeles. In year 1990-92, he was assigned as Acting Consul General in Honolulu, Hawaii and became a ‘Marcos-watcher’. In his two years in this posting, one of the tasks he had was to make sure that he kept an eye on the movement of Imelda Marcos with regards to the return of the corpse of the former president.

Should the cadaver be taken home, ConGen Chan had to ensure that it not land in NAIA but would be directly routed to Laoag, a task he accomplished with flying colors.

It was also through his efforts that the US agents who accompanied Imelda were not allowed to stay in the Philippines and were sent back to the US.

Contemplacion case

While in Home Office, ConGen Chan also played a role in the case of Flor Contemplacion, the overseas Filipino worker who was hanged to death in Singapore.

Although the Philippine government failed to save her life, according to ConGen Chan, that case left a positive change for the OFWs.

“It changed the paradigm of government. Due to that case, we formed the Office for Migrant Workers,” says ConGen Chan.

The Public Servant

ConGen Chan considers himself as someone with complex personality who tries to simplify life, entrusting things to the Maker.

Having been in the government service for more than three decades, ConGen Chan wants to be remembered as someone who gave service at its best.

“I always strive for excellence. I want people to remember me as somebody who never turned away government assistance and if we ever turn away, that is because we are bound by the limitation of the host country,” says ConGen Chan.

Being the public servant of the Filipinos abroad, he always empathizes with his kababayans.

“One Filipino problem overseas is too many. Kawawa ang Pinoy pag nagkaproblema sa ibang bansa, nakabitin, kasi halos walang mabalingan,” says he.

As a Toronto Consul General, Chan hopes to protect and empower the Filipino, especially caregivers by making them aware of their rights in Canada; encourage them to upgrade their skills so they would be able to practice their profession or be able to achieve promotions at work; promoting Balikbayan Program is also in the list of his agenda while in service.

Balikbayan Program is reaching out to the second and third generation Filipino, to encourage them to go home and discover their roots while enjoying the tourist spots of the country.

Although according to him: “Filipinos are lucky to be in Canada for its multiculturalism program that promotes individual identity, culture and religion without being less Canadian or less Filipino.”

On retirement

Now 64, ConGen Chan will soon reach the retirement age. Should he not get any extension, he intends to go back to the academe and teach.

Although, he said: “I wish I could be in a higher position to be able to help many people, or at least be able to change a system in a department.”

“I am satisfied on my own merit and I appreciate the fact that I’ve done and reach wherever I am without having to give up my principle,” adds ConGen Chan.