Yasay: I did not acquire US citizenship legally

Trishia Billones, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Mar 06 2017 10:13 AM | Updated as of Mar 06 2017 06:31 PM

Yasay confirms he once had US passport

MANILA - Foreign Affairs Secretary Perfecto Yasay Jr., on Monday admitted he was granted US citizenship in 1986 but that he was disqualified because he had "preconceived intent of abandoning his US residency." 

Speaking to ANC's Headstart, Yasay revealed that he was granted US citizenship and took an oath on November 24, 1986. However, he returned to the Philippines three months after in January 1987.

"In November 24, 26 of 1986, I was granted US citizenship. But at that time I was granted US citizenship, I had a preconceived intent of returning back to the Philippines," he said.

Yasay said he applied for US citizenship after former Senator Benigno "Ninoy" Aquino Jr. was killed in 1983. He said he "never expected" that President Ferdinand Marcos would be ousted from his post.

"When the ouster came, my application was already there, and when I came back, and I took my oath, I had the pre-conceived intent already because I just came back from the Philippines and said that I was immediately going back," he said.

Yasay said he went back to the Philippines right after the EDSA People Power Revolution in February 1986. During the visit, he said he already had plans to stay in the Philippines after the ouster of the Marcoses. 

In the interview, host Karen Davila clarified with Yasay if he took his oath as a US citizen on November 24, 1986.

The secretary said: "That is correct."

Asked if taking his oath made him a US citizen, Yasay said: "Well, in taking my oath does not make me a US citizen if precisely the basis upon which the grant of American citizenship is flawed and is defective."

"I would not have and I did not acquire legally American citizenship. It is precisely for that reason that three [sic] months after, in January 1987, I returned back to the Philippines," he said.

"And this consolidated the position that I did not legally acquire US citizenship and I returned all of my papers, executed an affidavit, telling the American authorities that I did not qualify and this is my right," he added.

He said under American law, one is "disqualified for being an American citizenship" if at the time of application or granting, one had the "pre-conceived intent of abandoning your US residency and in fact you abandon your US residency within two years after obtaining that US citizenship."

Yasay reiterated that he is a Filipino citizen amid claims that he is violating Philippine Citizenship Retention and Re-acquisition Act of 2003 or Republic Act (RA) 9225, which says appointed public officials cannot be a citizen of another country.

Section 5.3 of the law states: "Those appointed to any public office shall subscribe and swear to an oath of allegiance to the Republic of the Philippines and its duly constituted authorities prior to their assumption of office: Provided, that they renounce their oath of allegiance to the country where they took that oath."

"I am a Filipino citizen. I am not an American, I am not a dual citizen, I am not stateless. I am a Filipino citizen, and I am a Filipino in thought, in word, and in deed," Yasay said in the interview.

Yasay, whose confirmation for the Cabinet portfolio is still pending, also said that he carries a Filipino passport.

At the time of his confirmation hearing before lawmakers last month, social media was abuzz with rumors that he had dual citizenship and and uses a US passport, but the Secretary has denied the rumors.

Facing the Commission of Appointments, he said he resided in the US for almost a decade but never legally acquired American citizenship.

In the interview, Yasay noted that when he came back to the Philippines, "I went back as a Filipino, I carried my Philippine passport."

But he confirmed that he once had an American passport, but had since returned it.

"I had an American passport but that has already been returned together with my naturalization certificate," he said.

This runs counter to his earlier claim that he never held an American passport, which he supposedly used in travels from 2007 to 2009. 

"I do not have any information on that passport at all. As far as I know, personal knowledge, I never held any American passport," Yasay earlier said.

The US Internal Revenue Service earlier identified Yasay as one of those who have chosen to renounce citizenship. 

The Quarterly Publication of Individuals Who Have Chosen to Expatriate lists "YASAY, JR PERFECTO RIVAS" as one of those who renounced American citizenship. The list was issued January 26, 2017.

TOURIST VISA

In support of his argument that he never legally acquired American citizenship, Yasay noted that when he executed his affidavit in 1993 stating that he had been disqualified for citizenship from the beginning and returned his documentations, he "remained a Filipino from my viewpoint."

Soon thereafter, he said, he applied for visa to re-enter the United States as a "temporary visitor" at the US Embassy.

"I presented all of these documentations before the consul about my precisely returning and waiving and surrendering my US…or admitting that I was not qualified to be a US citizen," he said.

"On that basis, I was issued a US visa from 1993 as a tourist, which I used to enter the United States and come back precisely in all of the times that I went to the US and came back," he added.

The visa was valid for a year, but Yasay said, he was granted extension of another five years. He said he periodically sought five-year extensions until 2010 when he was granted another extension valid until 2020.

In 1994, he noted, when he was a commissioner of the Securities and Exchange Commission, he was granted an "exchange visitor’s visa" that permitted him to enter the US to train under Securities Regulations sponsored by the US Securities and Exchange Commission.

"All of this time, from since I returned as a Filipino from the United States, when I went back to the United States and came back here, I always entered on that tourist visa using my Philippine passport," he said.

"This is a tacit acceptance and admission of the part of the US government that in fact, I did not acquire validly US citizenship," he said.

Yasay reiterated he did not do anything to acquire his Filipino citizenship even after he returned his American documentations because he never lost it.

"When you did not legally acquire US citizenship, there is no point for you to reacquire your Filipino citizenship. If you do not legally acquire American citizenship, you do not lose your Filipino citizenship," he said.