MANILA – For lying under oath about his American citizenship, the Philippine Commission on Appointments (CA) unanimously rejected the appointment of Perfecto Yasay Jr. as foreign affairs secretary.
Because his appointment was rejected, Yasay was effectively fired from his post and cannot be reappointed to the position by President Rodrigo Duterte, according to Senator Panfilo Lacson, chairman of the CA foreign relations committee.
Yasay is the first appointee of Duterte to be thumbed down by the CA so far.
After the hearing, Yasay was resigned to his fate saying “there is life after rejection by the CA”.
He also said he can now rest from his hectic work schedule and “have time to get a haircut”.
In response to the CA’s move, Presidential spokesman Ernesto Abella said Duterte will appoint an acting foreign secretary.
Chief presidential legal counsel Salvador Panelo, for his part, said it is up to the courts to decide on Yasay’s citizenship and any legal liability since Yasay served as chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) from 1995 to 2000 and ran for senator and also for Vice President in previous elections.
Yasay would not have held the SEC leadership and be eligible to run in previous elections if he was once an American citizen.
The rejection of Yasay’s appointment comes at an inopportune time as the Philippines will host the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) summit this year.
Lacson said in an interview yesterday that Yasay “was not telling the truth.”
“He was not being forthright in the question-and-answer portion of the (confirmation) hearings,” Lacson added.
Yasay earlier told the CA during a hearing on his appointment that he did not acquire American citizenship and never possessed a US passport but the Philippine Daily Inquirer cited documents showing that Yasay became a US citizen in 1986 and renounced his American citizen only on June 28 last year, two days before he was named foreign affairs chief.
And in a television interview, Yasay admitted he did have a US passport but returned it along with his naturalization documents.
When he appeared before the CA yesterday, Yasay was questioned over documents showing that he became a US citizen in 1986. Yasay maintained that he did not lie about his American citizenship but apologized “for misleading the commission.”
When asked to give a categorical answer if he once was a US citizen, Yasay said: “I wish I could answer that question with a yes or no, but as directly as I could in answering that question, I have always admitted that I was granted US citizenship. That’s my answer. I was granted US citizenship (on])Nov. 26, 1986, but it’s my position that the grant of US citizenship at that time was void,” he said.
After questioning Yasay, the commission’s members met behind closed doors to cast a vote and Senator Lacson later announced that they have all decided to reject Yasay’s appointment.
“Let this be a reminder to everyone present in this hall, 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,” Lacson said.
Meanwhile, Abella said the executive secretary’s office will inform the foreign affairs department today as to who will be acting secretary.
Panelo, for his part, told reporters: “As a lawyer, he (referring to Yasay) has his legal arguments to defend himself and I think the proper forum would be the courts to determine whether he was an American citizen at one time in his life or not, as he says.” GAC/Expat Media
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