LAWMAKERS dismissed Perfecto Yasay Jr. as Foreign Affairs secretary yesterday for his failure to prove he was not an American citizen, eight months after he was named to the post by President Duterte.
The Commission on Appointments (CA) rejected the ad interim appointment of Yasay hours after a confirmation hearing during which he made inconsistent statements while under oath.
Sen. Panfilo Lacson, chairman of the CA committee on foreign relations, said his 15-man panel, during an executive session, unanimously voted to reject the appointment of Yasay. Lacson said Yasay should immediately vacate his position since he has no authority to perform his duties.
“He cannot be appointed, being a US citizen. And he cannot be reappointed as secretary of foreign affairs, having been rejected by the Commission,” Lacson said.
Yasay, a US-educated lawyer, a former classmate of Duterte and a member of his inner circle, was the first casualty in Duterte’s eight-month-old Cabinet.
Presidential spokesman Ernesto Abella said Dutere will name a new DFA secretary today, Thursday.
The new secretary will play a crucial role in Duterte’s government which is aggressively pursuing tighter business and defense ties with China, Russia and Japan. The Philippines is also the chair of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.
DFA spokesman Charles Jose said: “We respect the decision of the Commission on Appointment and will await the President’s appointment of a new Secretary of Foreign Affairs.”
Lacson said Yasay’s close relationship with Duterte was no guarantee he should keep his job, adding his conflicting comments under oath raised questions about his honesty.
“It was the view ... that he was not telling the truth,” Lacson said. “He was not forthright in the question-and-answer portion of the hearings.”
An aide for Yasay who answered telephone calls said there would be no immediate statement.
Yasay, who chaired the Securities and Exchange Commission from 1995 to 2000, ran for senator in 2001 and for vice president in 2010. He was appointed by Duterte to head the DFA on June 30, 2016.
Lacson said Yasay violated Section 45 of Executive Order No. 292 which states that to be appointed as a member of the President’s official family “secretaries shall be citizens of the Philippines.”
“Although the Constitution has vested the President the power to appoint members of the Executive Department, as a form of check and balance, it has also granted the Commission on Appointments the authority to approve or reject any appointee of the President belonging to the first level of appointment,” Lacson added.
Yasay’s rejection in the plenary was the first. But at the committee level, several presidential appointees were also rejected by the CA.
Among those rejected at the committee level were former Sen. Miriam Defensor as Agrarian Reform secretary during President Corazon Aquino’s term; Ricardo Saludo as chair of the Civil Service Commission during President Gloria Arroyo’s administration; and Grace Padaca as Commission on Elections commissioner during the previous administration.
Yasay has denied being an American citizen, saying that although he was granted citizenship in the 1980s he was disqualified because he had acquired it with a prior intent to renounce it and return to live in the Philippines.
He also claimed that his repeated use of a Philippine passport to visit the United States was “tacit acceptance” by Washington that he was not an American.
Last Monday, he admitted that he had an American passport but claimed he had surrendered it along with his naturalization certificate. He did not say, however, when he did that.
Yasay’s statements to the CA yesterday were loaded with legalese, lengthy and at times, confusing. He apologized to lawmakers and said he had not sought to deceive them.
“I did not lie. I may not have fully disclosed what was required ... but this is really no fun in a process like this,” he said. “You get nervous. You somehow come up with answers that you do not intend, and I apologize for that.”
Earlier in the day, Yasay apologized to the bicameral body for “inadvertently” misleading them about his citizenship status but maintained that he is a Filipino and not an American citizen.
Yasay said that he was granted US citizenship in November 1986 and a passport thereafter. He said, however, that his citizenship was “invalid” under the US Immigration and Nationality Act.
During the confirmation proceedings, Yasay also apologized to Occidental Mindoro Rep. Josephine Ramirez-Sato, LP secretary general, for supposedly linking her in the destabilization plot against the Duterte administration.
“It pains me that anything and everything that cannot be answered will be attributed to the destabilization plot,” Sato said.
During the plenary, Lacson said Yasay’s rejection should serve as a reminder “that by definition, an oath is a solemn declaration, accompanied by a swearing to God or a revered person or thing, that one’s statement is true or that one will be bound to a promise.” –With Jocelyn Montemayor, Ashzel Hachero, and Reuters