President Duterte is astute.
He can appear to be assuring you of his trust and confidence while actually cutting your neck.
That was what his July 19 video statement released by Malacañang on the status of Foreign Secretary Perfecto Yasay, Jr. showed.
In the video, a very formal Duterte in barong tagalog with the emblem of the President of the Republic of the Philippine behind and in front of him, said:
"I would like to arrest a few rumors going around that Secretary Yasay of the Department of Foreign Affairs is on his way out. I would like to assure the Secretary that he is in good company and there is no truth to the rumor that there is a plan for his ouster, far from it actually.
"I would like the Philippines to know that I personally pleaded with Secretary Yasay to join the government because he is competent and honest, and he knows his business. He has a professorial job on the western side of the United States.
“He knows whereof he speaks. So hindi totoo yan.
“Although there’s a caveat. Actually, Secretary Yasay accepted the position on the condition that he will only serve for a few months, not even a year because he has his contractual obligations to teach, professorial chair, well most of universities in the western side... maybe California, Hawaii and somewhere else.
“So, let me douse cold water on the rumor and arrest the circulating... It’s not good.
"Yasay speaks for me. Everything that he says in public, both national and international, comes from my guidance. And he has my backing and full support. And I said, I place my entire trust in him to take care as being the spokesman for our foreign affairs. And that's why he is there.
"Sana po matapos na iyang haka-haka. Maraming Salamat.”
So, Yasay stays put as Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) secretary for now.
But he will be out soon. “For a few months, not even a year,” Duterte said.
That’s exit. Duterte just made it graceful.
That’s sooner than what Yasay expected, who was presumed to be holding the DFA position until the one-year ban on defeated vice- presidential candidate Alan Peter Cayetano expires.
Cayetano becoming foreign secretary is not being mentioned now. Besides, it’s doubtful if Cayetano is interested to be the country’s chief diplomat.
DFA would not serve Cayetano’s higher political ambitions unlike the Department of Interior and Local Government which gives one direct contacts with local government that would be useful in future electoral exercises.
Controversy hounded Yasay from the moment his name was mentioned as the next foreign secretary. There were no lack in materials against him. There’s the Banco Filipino case and his controversial stint as chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission.
Being passed around through email are records of Yasay’ sunpaid tax debts and mortgages in the United States going back to the 1990s. He has also been delinquent in the payment of his New York bar dues.
Definitely, Yasay is not the worst foreign secretary. DFA has had its share of incompetent secretaries.
But Yasay’s major flaw is, he talks to media too much. That’s a catastrophe if you are ignorant about the subject you are talking about.
And he has very bad timing.
Before the July 12 release of the decision of the Permanent Court of Arbitration on the case filed by the Philippines against China on the disputed waters in the South China Sea, Yasay talked about engaging in bilateral talks and joint exploration with China.
He revealed that he rebuffed the pressure of the ambassadors of countries pushing the issue of freedom of navigation in South China Sea (United States and Japan) for him to issue a strong statement against China when the Arbitral Court’s decision comes out.
He was seen as pro-China so much so that he was crucified when he didn’t look joyful while reading the DFA statement on the Arbitral Court’s decision that overwhelmingly favored the Philippines.
Then perhaps to negate his pro-China image, he spilled to media his conversation with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi on the sidelines of Asia-Europe Meeting in Mongolia. He said that he rejected Wang’s proposal that bilateral talks between the Philippines and China would not be based on the Arbitral tribunal’s ruling.
One can’t have a secretary of foreign affairs that conducts dealing with other countries through media. Other diplomats would be scared discussing sensitive matters with him.
Duterte talks of Yasay having commitments for a teaching jobs in the United States - “California, Hawaii and somewhere else.”
School term in the U.S. begins in September. That means Yasay will only be up to September? The next question: who will be the next foreign secretary?
Disclaimer: The views in this blog are those of the blogger and do not necessarily reflect the views of ABS-CBN Corp.