MANILA – Foreign Affairs Secretary Perfecto Yasay Jr. could face perjury charges if it was proven he lied under oath during a Commission on Appointments (CA) hearing, where he claimed he was never an American citizen.
Senator Panfilo Lacson, chair of the CA’s foreign affairs committee, cited a document that Yasay himself gave to CA member, Occidental Mindoro Representative Josephine Ramirez Sato, which shows that the country’s top diplomat was granted United States citizenship on November 26, 1986 and renounced it only on June 28, 2016.
"That could be a cause for a complaint for perjury. If it can be proven na nag-lie siya at authentic ang mga dokumento (that he lied and the documents are authentic),” Lacson said.
“Remember kailangan i-authenticate natin ang mga document at ipakita na kontra iyan sa kanyang testimony under oath.”
(We have to authenticate the document and show that this is contrary to what he testified under oath.)
However, not being appointed as foreign affairs secretary should be the least of Yasay’s worries, said Lacson.
"That should be the least of his worries. Kapag may perjury, kasi may criminal offense. Kaya huwag siya mag-worry masyado kung di siya ma-confirm. Mas ang problema niya ang pwede niyang kaharapin na kaso."
(That should be the least of his concerns. If perjury is committed, there is criminal offense. He should not worry whether he would not get confirmed. The bigger problem for him is the case that he might face.)
In his confirmation hearing in Congress last week, Yasay denied that he was a US citizen despite being identified in the list of Americans who renounced citizenship in the last quarter of 2016.
Yasay claimed he resided in the US for almost a decade but never legally acquired American citizenship.
"I have never legally acquired American citizenship. At the time of my application for naturalization, I was given due course and on this basis I took my oath," he said.
"I was not qualified because at that time, I already had plans to abandon my permanent residency in the United States because I already had plans to return to the Philippines."
Yasay told the Commission on Appointments that he left the Philippines in 1978 to "flee the Martial Law regime."
He said he was petitioned by his wife, an American citizen, and was given permanent resident status, which he stressed "does not imply becoming an American citizen."
But 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.
Yasay said that though he underwent a renunciation procedure, this was not to revoke an American citizenship, but merely to reiterate "the admission of non-eligibility that I made much, much earlier."
However, the oath of allegiance is the last step to becoming a citizen after an applicant goes through all other requirements for naturalization, said Joanne Talbot, acting team lead and public affairs officer from the media division of the US Citizenship and Immigration Services.
“The oath is the last step to becoming a citizen. Once you take it, you will have to renounce your citizenship. You become a citizen after complying with the rest of the requirements,” she said in a recent phone interview with ABS-CBN News.
ABS-CBN News tried to confirm Yasay’s citizenship with the US Embassy in the Philippines, but Deputy Press Attaché Emma Nagy said that information about whether individuals have US citizenship are protected under US privacy laws.