MANILA -- Former Foreign Affairs Secretary Perfecto Yasay Jr, who led President Rodrigo Duterte's pivot to China, died on Independence Day, his wife said. He was 73.
Yasay died of "pneumonia due to the recurrence of his cancer" and not because of the coronavirus pandemic, said his wife Cecile Joaquin Yasay.
He was Duterte's first chief diplomat. Barely a month into the President's 6-year term, a United Nations-backed arbitration court in July 2016 ruled in favor of the Philippines' challenge to China's vast claims in the South China Sea.
Duterte refused to flaunt the legal victory and it was Yasay who delivered the Philippine government's initial response to the ruling.
Yasay stepped down in March 2017, after the Commission on Appointments refused to confirm his assignment, citing his citizenship.
In August 2019, he posted bail for violation of the Central Bank Act. The case stemmed from a rehabilitation plan he negotiated for shuttered Banco Filipino in 2010. Yasay, who served in the bank's board, denied wrongdoing.
As Securities and Exchange Commission Chairman in 2000, Yasay claimed then President Joseph Estrada called him up over stock manipulation allegations against one of the chief executive's friends.
Yasay's accusation, alongside allegations of corruption, led to Estrada's impeachment and eventual ouster through a military-backed revolt in 2001.