MANILA (3rd UPDATE) - Lawmakers on Wednesday rejected the ad interim appointment of Foreign Affairs Secretary Perfecto Yasay, who was at the forefront of President Rodrigo Duterte’s shift to China.
The rejection by the Commission on Appointments (CA) means that Duterte will have to appoint a new head of the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA).
In a statement to media, the Palace said Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea will talk with the DFA at 8 a.m. on Thursday regarding the matter.
CA foreign affairs committee chairman Panfilo Lacson said the 15-member bicameral body voted unanimously to reject Yasay’s appointment.
“In the short course of time since the appointment of Secretary Yasay, various compelling issues have been leveled at him in magnified proportions, all considerably relevant and pertinent to the deliberation of his fitness and qualification as the foreign affairs secretary,” Lacson said.
“After careful deliberations of the foregoing circumstances, and upon a unanimous vote of 15 of its members present in a caucus held this morning, this representation as chairman of the committee of foreign affairs hereby moves to reject the ad interim appointment of Perfecto Rivas Yasay Jr.”
In a statement, DFA spokesperson Charles Jose said, "We respect the decision of the CA and will await the President's appointment of a new SFA [Secretary of Foreign Affairs]. In the meantime, we will ensure that the transition will go smoothly and that the DFA continues to carry out its work effectively."
During his confirmation hearing on Wednesday, Yasay apologized to lawmakers for “inadvertently” misleading them on questions over his citizenship.
Yasay said he was granted US citizenship in November 1986 but this was “null and void” because he returned to Manila after a popular uprising that same year restored democracy in the Philippines.
“Let me quickly apologize for having inadvertently misled the commission on this matter. It has never been my intention to deceive this commission about my citizenship status,” he said.
Grilled about his flip-flopping statements about having a US passport, Yasay said the US passport that he was referring to during a previous hearing by the Commission on Appointments was the one referred to in a Rappler report as having been issued in 2006.
Yasay said he was denying the report for “lack of personal knowledge.”
“I did not lose my status as a Filipino for the reason that I did not validly acquire US citizenship, albeit that I took my oath as a US citizen, was issued a certificate of naturalization and given a US passport,” he said.
On Monday, Yasay admitted in an interview with ANC's "Headstart" that he once had an American passport, in an interview with ANC's "Headstart."
Host Karen Davila asked Yasay: "You've never had an American passport?
"I had an American passport but that has already been returned together with my naturalization certificate," Yasay answered.
Responding to Yasay’s assertion that the court, not the CA, is the proper forum for resolving his citizenship issue, Lacson said, “it cannot be denied that the Commission on Appointments is also a proper forum to determine his qualification and fitness of secretary of Department of Foreign Affairs.”
He also reminded all Cabinet appointees to take seriously their oath during CA hearings.
“Let this be a reminder to everyone, that by definition, an oath is a solemn declaration, accompanied by a swearing to God,” he said.
“The person making the oath implicitly invites punishment if the statement is untrue or the promise is broken. The legal effect of an oath is to subject the person to penalties for perjury if the testimony is false.”