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Kapampangan diplomat honored

Consul General Elmer G. Cato receives his Gawad Mabini award from Foreign Affairs Secretary Enrique Manalo in conferment ceremonies at the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA). With Consul General Cato is his mother, Lutgarda.

Kapampangan journalist-turned-diplomat Elmer G. Cato received for the second time on Wednesday one of the country’s highest honors for his service in war-torn countries in the Middle East and Africa.

Cato, who is now Consul General of the Philippines in Milan, Italy, was among several senior diplomats who received the Gawad Mabini (Order of Mabini) with the rank of Dakilang Kamanong (Grand Cross) during the commemoration of the 125th anniversary of the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA).

Cato was honored for his service in Libya during the last civil war and the coronavirus pandemic from 2019 to 2021 and previously in Iraq during the height of power of the Islamic State (ISIS) from 2015 to 2018.

Cato, who volunteered to head the Philippine embassies in Baghdad and Tripoli, led efforts to ensure the safety and security of Filipinos in the total of five years he served there.

The Gawad Mabini was established by Presidential Decree No. 490 and is awarded to diplomats and other individuals for acts of merit. These acts include evacuating Filipinos from danger zones; providing consular services or protecting Filipinos abroad; and exemplary performance in an international negotiation or mission.

In 2012, Cato received from President Benigno S. Aquino III the Gawad Mabini with the rank of Dakilang Kasugo for initiating and securing the rent-free hosting of DFA consular offices in shopping malls across the country.

In 2022, Cato, who is also a reservist who holds the rank of Lieutenant Colonel in the Philippine Army, was awarded the Bronze Cross by Army chief Maj. Gen. Romeo Brawner for heroism that involved risk to life during his two-year tour of duty in Tripoli.

Cato’s second Gawad Mabini was presented by Foreign Affairs Secretary Enrique Manalo on behalf of fomer President Rodrigo Roa Duterte who approved its confernment.

Other recipients include Ambassador Igor Bailen of the Philippine Embassy in Moscow; Ambassador Leah Ruiz of the Philippine Embassy in Warsaw; Assistant Secretary for ASEAN Affairs Daniel Espiritu; Consul General Zaldy Patron of the Philippine Consulate General in Calgary; and Deputy Chief of Mission Eric Tamayo of the Philippine Embassy in Paris.