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Roberto Romulo, diplomat and ex-IBM Philippines chief, dies at 83

Roberto “Bobby” Romulo, a former top diplomat who once served as president and general manager of IBM Philippines, has died at the age of 83.

Former ambassador Roberto R. Romulo
Photo from the Carlos P. Romulo Foundation

The Carlos P. Romulo Foundation (CPRF) confirmed the passing of Romulo on Sunday, Jan. 23. The cause of his death was not disclosed.

Romulo was born on December 9, 1938, one of the four sons of former World War II general Carlos P. Romulo. He studied law and became a lawyer but never practiced the profession. He eventually followed the footsteps of his famous father in the field of foreign service after a distinguished career as a technology executive.  

Not many know that he began his professional career with IBM Corporation in New York City in 1965. During his IBM career, he held various marketing and management positions in New York, Thailand (managing director) and the Philippines (president and general manager).

Romulo (3rd from left, back row) with his IBM colleagues
Photo from the Carlos P. Romulo Foundation

He joined government service in June 1989 when he was appointed ambassador to Belgium, Luxembourg, and the Commission of the European Communities. In 1992, he was named secretary of the Department Foreign Affairs but left the post in the controversial aftermath of the hanging in Singapore of Filipina domestic worker Flor Contemplacion.

Romulo in an online meeting last Aug. 2021
Photo from the Carlos P. Romulo Foundation

At the time of his death, Romulo was still involved as chairman or board member of a number of technology companies and organizations such as PLDT and the Foundation for IT Education and Development (FIT-ED).

Tributes have poured in from the diplomatic community, including government officials and employees.

Sen. Grace Poe, in a statement, said the “nation lost a distinguished diplomat, eminent economist, and prolific public servant. “We will miss his profound wisdom, which he had so passionately shared to the Filipinos through his writings until his final few days. As he goes to his final resting place, may his loved ones find strength and peace knowing he left behind a great legacy,” the lawmaker said.

Josephine Romero, a former foreign trade official who is now a startup community leader, said Romulo was a “mentor” during her time in government service and a “guiding hand” in her new ventures.

“No words to express the sadness I feel about the passing of the indomitable Ambassador Roberto Bobby Romulo. He took care of the Filipino, his family and friends with such passion that energized him so much he defied the odds of his health condition for far longer than anyone thought possible,” Romero said.

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