Complaints of sexual harassment, abuse of authority, working under the influence of liquor, and abusive behavior have been lodged against this consul assigned in Canada, and yet, he is still in service and flaunts his connections?
By JHONG DELA CRUZ and AUBREY MAKILAN
RED DEER, Alberta — More and more Canada-based Filipinos are coming out with complaints against Philippine Consul Jose Ampeso, the most recent of which is a case of sexual harassment filed by a Filipina. Although an investigation has been proposed following the filing of a formal complaints, Filipinos who have complained are one in saying that Filipinos here deserve more than the beleaguered government official.
In a letter to Foreign Affairs Sec. Albert del Rosario dated April 29, Carlyn Montero Guerrero, a resident of Calgary, Alberta, said Consul General Ampeso allegedly made sexual advances to her between July 2011 to January 2012.
Guerrero said that from the time they met in July 2011 when she joined the Ambassadors, Consul General and Tourism Directors Tour, Ampeso showed “obvious liking” toward her. The tour is being held in tourist spots in the Philippines every year for envoys residing in Canada.
“From the time we met, he took an obvious liking toward me. However, I chose to ignore his advances because of my high regard for the other ambassadors and consul generals in the party,” Guerrero stated in the letter.
“From September 2011 to December 2011, upon his insistence, every time he would come to Calgary, I would pick him up from the airport and chauffeur him around the city. Soon after September 2011, he started making sexual advances toward me by, first, holding my thighs while I was driving while I always tried to fend him off,” narrated Guerrero.
She added that it got worse during the party of the Masons in Calgary on Dec. 19, 2011 when Ampeso, whom she described as “very drunk then,” allegedly tried to kiss her while they were dancing. “When he was back in Vancouver there were numerous times when he would call me during unholy hours of the night and send me text messages,” she added.
As the sexual advances were “getting worse,” Guerrero said, she tried to distance herself from Ampeso. “Around that time (early 2012), there was a consular mission in Red Deer, Alberta and although I knew Consul General Ampeso was expecting me to be there, I chose not to involve myself in that mission and declined his invitation to go there,” she said. “I received some phone calls (some obscene), from so-called friends persuading me to see him, which I also declined to do. Albeit to say, this angered Mr. Ampeso.”
In 1996, Ampeso was charged by Evangeline (Luli) Arroyo, daughter of former Philippine president Gloria Macapagal Arroyo who was a senator then, for sexual harassment. Arroyo charged that Ampeso was under the influence of alcohol and made “inappropriate” remarks at her. Ampeso denied the charges but later apologized in writing. He was ordered “to attend clinical sessions including those on gender sensitivity and alcoholism” and the charges were dismissed in 1998.
‘Abuse of position’
Aside from the sexual advances, Guerrero also recounted other instances that she described as “abuse of his (Ampeso) position.”
Ampeso would request her assistance in organizing consular missions in Calgary, said Guerrero. During the consular missions, she said, Ampeso would contact her to look for sponsors for his airline tickets to fly to Calgary and for meals for members of the consular mission. “Ampeso would even ask me to write a letter and have it signed by an organization, thus giving him the excuse to come to Calgary on official business,” she said.
Guerrero also said Ampeso had bragged about his connections“like the President of the Philippines, because he had helped his father the late Sen. Benigno Aquino Sr. in acquiring his passport, and that he also belongs to an elite fraternal group that is very powerful and can influence government appointments.”
On April 19 at Sheraton Hotel in Red Deer, Alberta, where the Vancouver consulate was doing a consular mission, 28-year old Proceso Flordeliz Jr. tagged his family along from Edmonton, to renew his passport. It was an event he would never forget.
Flordeliz, a quality assurance analyst with an IT firm based in Edmonton, was at the receiving end of Ampeso’s alleged rudeness. Wanting to renew his passport, Flordeliz instead got the ire of Ampeso when he grabbed from his pocket one Canadian dollar for the consul’s “donation drive.” He swore at me, “P!@#$%^&*! Ang cheap mo naman! Para sa ‘Pinas ‘yan! (Son of a b___! You’re cheap! This is for the Philippines!)” The government official, whom Flordeliz said was drunk, also allegedly threatened not to renew his passport.
The incident drew attention after Flordeliz posted a video clip on Youtube showing Ampeso berate a Filipino during the consular mission in Red Deer. Flordeliz said the video was taken by his wife after his ordeal with Ampeso, and that the consul was shouting at another Filipino.
Alex Baros, a volunteer at the same mission had another side of the story. In his media interviews, he said it was Flordeliz who swore at Ampeso. Flordeliz denied that he swore at Ampeso and that Baros told him to give some respect to the consul. He said the only person who apologized to him was a lady who seemed to have sponsored the mission in Red Deer.
Forty-four year-old Rollito Avila, a resident of Red Deer, was also present during the passport renewal and witnessed the encounter between Flordeliz and the consul general.
Avila came to Canada in 2008 as a contract worker and became a permanent resident in 2010.
He said the video clip captured only a part the consul’s wrath. “He did that the whole day to Filipinos.” Avila came with his family as walk-in applicants and they had arrived earlier and waited until afternoon to be served. He said when the official came back from lunch break that was when he and his wife noticed that the consul general reeked of alcohol.
“Unbelievably, he was yelling, swearing, and was very arrogant,” he said, adding that consul general can be heard from the hotel lobby. “There was a Filipino who came late for her appointment and was shouted at to ‘go home!’”She just cried.
Ed Ebron, another Filipino at the consular mission, supported Avila’s claims. “It was the start of a horrifying afternoon,” he said.
Avila also refused to give $10.00 when allegedly asked to donate, which, he said earned the ire of the consul general. “A certain Alex Baros approached me, told me not to argue anymore.” He was also threatened that his passport will not be renewed, he said.
The viral video Flordeliz uploaded online prompted the Philippine government to call Ampeso back to the Philippines for questioning.
Flordeliz had sent a sworn complaint to the Department of Foreign Affairs on May 2. The government reportedly withheld an investigation earlier in the absence of a formal complaint.
Meanwhile, Flordeliz is hoping the Philippine government will carry out a fair investigation. He said, “I hope he’ll be held accountable and reprimanded so that others will not experience what happened to me. It’s a traumatic experience.”
In his media interviews in the Philippines, consul general Ampeso had labeled as “cyber-mugging” the way Flordeliz had come out with the video using social media. In his statement on April 24, he said “The video alone is not sufficient to draw any reasonable conclusions from, one way or the other; hence, it is unfair and unjust to use it to malign my character.” Ampeso had also denied being drunk during the outreach mission.
Migrante Canada, an alliance of Filipino migrant and immigrant organisations in Canada, welcomed the move by the government to conduct an investigation regarding allegations of the envoy’s misconduct. “We expect that Philippine diplomats adhere to a certain standard: that they display conduct becoming of their important role as representatives of the Philippine government and servants of the Filipino people,” said Tess Agustin, Migrante Canada chairperson. “We also expect Philippine diplomats to set the example for their own staff as they do their regular duties of serving our kababayan.”
The migrant group encouraged the Department of Foreign Affairs to elicit feedback from the members of the Filipino community without fear of retaliation. “[Filipinos] may feel vulnerable the next time they need the services of the consular office and may fear filing formal complaints,” said Agustin.
“Considering that it is the remittances from overseas workers that help prop up the ailing Filipino economy, and mindful that the taxes and the OFW contributions greatly help fund the salaries of Ampeso and the diplomatic staff, OFWs deserve nothing less than fair, just, competent, professional, and courteous service from government officials outside of the Philippines,” added Agustin.
With regard to Ampeso’s service record, Migrante’s research showed that his name came up in “Administrative Order no.346 which outlined the administrative charges from the Department of Foreign Affairs of grave misconduct, falsification of official documents, conduct prejudicial to the interest of the service, and violation of Civil Service Law, Rules and Regulations against Mr. Ampeso and the investigation which found him guilty of these charges in 1997.” As a result, he was found guilty of all the charges and was “meted the penalty of suspension from office without pay for six (6) months with a strong warning that a commission of similar offense in the future will be dealt with more severely.” The Administrative Order no.346 also declared that the Office was “inclined to impose a stiffer penalty on respondent Ampeso to send an unequivocal signal to our fellow public servants.”