MANILA – Foreign Secretary Perfecto Yasay on Wednesday apologized to lawmakers for “inadvertently” misleading them on questions over his citizenship, as he appealed for the confirmation of his appointment to the Cabinet.
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.
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.
Lawmakers held a closed-door meeting to decide on Yasay's confirmation after an hour of questioning, and Commission Chair Panfilo Lacson later announced that a decision has been reached but will be announced in the plenary.
In the hearing, Liberal Party member Occidental Mindoro Representative Josephine Ramirez-Sato confronted Yasay about conflicting statements he made in Wednesday's hearing and a previous CA hearing.
Sato also scored Yasay for a claim he made to a news outfit that questions on his citizenship raised in the hearing may be part of a destabilization effort against the Duterte administration.
"It pains me that anything and everything that cannot be answered will be attributed to the destabilization plot. This is unpardonable, Mr. Chairman. The actuation of the honorable secretary at the very bliss is contemptuous of this commission," she said.
Yasay, for his part apologized to the body, emphasizing that he was not referring to Sato or any member of the commission but to those "from the outside" questioning his citizenship through the lawmakers.
"When I said that questioning my citizenship before the Commission on Appointments, I did not refer to congressman, to the good and honorable Congressman Sato," he said.
On Monday, Yasay admitted he 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.
Also on 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.