Filipinos in Libya are hopeful that authorities in Manila would heed their plea for their top diplomat in Tripoli to be allowed to continue serving them. 

Around 1,300 Filipinos across Libya signed a recent petition asking President Rodrigo Duterte to consider extending the tour of duty of Philippine Embassy Chargé d’Affaires and Head of Mission Elmer Cato. 

“We are hopeful that President Duterte would allow our beloved head of mission to stay with us longer,” Dr. Jeddah Valmores, one of those who initiated the petition said. 

In their petition, the Filipinos said they are fortunate to have been given the opportunity to work with a proactive and responsive leader whose performance since his assignment in Libya almost two years ago gave them the much-needed assurance that the Philippine Government is indeed looking after their interests and well-being. 

According to them, Cato demonstrated President Duterte’s concern and compassion for overseas Filipino workers in the actions he has undertaken since his assumption at the Philippine Embassy a few days before the outbreak of hostilities in 2019. 

“We felt Ambassador Cato’s genuine concern in the way he looked after all of us,” they said. 

“He showed us how much he cared by staying in Libya the entire time the fighting for Tripoli was raging and even during the coronavirus disease pandemic where a number of us were infected and even died,” they added. 

The Filipinos said Cato found ways to assist them during the pandemic by seeking non-government support that allowed the Embassy to provide food assistance and personal protective equipment such as face shields for nurses and other frontliners. 

They said Cato also opened the doors of the Embassy to the Filipino Community and improved the delivery of consular services.

“Service to people can never be rendered if the leader is hard to reach, but what he’s been doing is bringing the embassy open and closer to people. And by this, the embassy’s able to do the very purpose of its existence,” said Rainalda Antazo from the Philippine Community School in Tripoli. 

“He had greatly influenced the betterment of our situation and welfare. His personal visits and engagement with our company officials gave us so much pride that we are represented by a respectable and hardworking man. It boosts our self-esteem that we have someone who is willing to listen to our every issue and makes time to attend to our calls,” said Sandra Macutay, head of the Sirte Oil Company Filipino Community in Marsa Brega. 

According to Valmores, the signatories of the petition are Filipinos from all over Libya who are working in the medical, oil and gas, education sectors as well as their families in the Philippines.