It is said that you can find patriotism in the simple act of doing one’s duty. Ask not what your country can do for you — as the famous quote by John F. Kennedy goes — ask what you can do for your country.

In his term as Secretary of the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) from 2011 to 2016, Albert F. del Rosario had been steadfast in carrying out his duty, taking care of Filipinos in the diaspora, defending the nation’s territory and sovereignty in the face of foreign powers, and working toward an ideal government that is responsive, dynamic, and most importantly, compassionate. And in doing this, he has been recognized as one of the Philippines’ most influential patriots.

At the Asia CEO Awards, an annual awards program that recognizes outstanding leadership achievements by individuals and organizations in the Philippines and across the ASEAN region, the former DFA chief was lauded for his efforts in staunchly defending the country’s sovereignty and territorial integrity under the Aquino administration.

Ateneo de Manila University, which has awarded Mr. del Rosario a doctorate in Humanities honoris causa, wrote in their citation of him, “It is said that a nation has four elements: its people, territory, government, and sovereignty. Albert F. Del Rosario has defended and promoted all of these that constitute what we are as a country. He took care of Filipinos in the diaspora, defended our territory and sovereignty with passion and discipline, and he worked consistently for a better and more dynamic government bureaucracy.”

“Recognizing his brilliance as a diplomat, his love for all Filipinos and especially those in our diaspora, a strong commitment to good and effective governance, personal discipline and an incredible work ethic, his devotion to wife Gretchen and his sons, daughters, and grandchildren, and for patriotism beyond the call of duty, the Ateneo de Manila proudly confers on Albert F. Del Rosario the Honorary Degree of Doctor of Humanities.”

To earn his reputation, Mr. del Rosario took great personal risk to ensure the welfare of Filipinos abroad. He famously hit the ground running, traveling to Tripoli, Libya hours after being sworn into office to help around 400 overseas Filipinos caught in the crossfire of civil war and bring them to the Libyan-Tunisian border. This was merely the first of such incidents as later he led more repatriations of Filipinos in the Middle East — Syria, Yemen, Iraq, and Egypt, in particular — throughout his stint in the department.

Ultimately, over 24,000 Filipinos were repatriated from these countries, protecting them from the worst of civil strife, devastated by natural and other disasters, and struck by pandemics. Overall, the government has assisted more than 80,000 overseas Filipinos and their families under Mr. del Rosario’s watch.

When the Philippines got into a territorial row with China, it fell to him to issue a foreign policy that advocated for the primacy of the rule of law, particularly that of the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) and the peaceful settlement of disputes.

Closely working with key agencies, he championed arbitration as an open, friendly, and transparent mechanism in resolving the maritime dispute, negotiated with allies for the Philippine Defense Modernization Program, and consulted with foreign counterparts on policy and operational issues.

It was under his leadership that the Philippines won a big victory in the arbitration case it filed against China. That arbitral award supported the country’s position in the West Philippine Sea and soundly rejected the claims of China.

“Sec. del Rosario has been a tireless voice in drawing attention to China’s assertiveness within the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) as well as in other international fora,” Ateneo de Manila University wrote.

“If, in the end, we will triumph against attempts to undermine our territory and sovereignty, it is because Sec. del Rosario, with other like-minded Filipinos, stood their ground and drew sharp lines in the seas. Future generations will benefit from their vision and courage.”

Even before his term fighting for the nation and its citizens, Mr. del Rosario has already been doing its part towards the development of the country. As the Philippine ambassador to the United States, he was instrumental in securing $1.2-billion US funding assistance for the Philippines, realizing investments in the business process outsourcing (BPO) industry, now the country’s biggest source of growth. He also encouraged more open trade between the two countries, acquiring greater access to the US market for Philippine exports.

During his speech at the Asia CEO Awards, Mr. del Rosario pushed for a foreign policy that focused on several factors including “peace and stability based upon the equality of nations, the rule of law, the peaceful settlement of disputes, respect for human rights and other core principles.”

“The Philippines must therefore be an active participant in building a regional architecture of cooperation, friendship and amity involving all concerned states,” Mr. del Rosario said.

Throughout his career, Mr. del Rosario has done a lot for his country. If you can indeed find a patriot in doing one’s duty, he is nothing short of one. — Bjorn Biel M. Beltran