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Lying about citizenship cost Yasay top diplomat post

/ 06:27 PM March 08, 2017

Because he lied on his citizenship, Perfecto Yasay’s appointment as secretary of the Department of Foreign Affairs was rejected by the Commission on Appointments (CA) on Wednesday after a unanimous vote of committee members.

It was the first time a foreign secretary’s appointment had been rejected by the powerful CA as well as the first time the body rejected a Cabinet secretary under the eight-month-old Duterte administration.

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Yasay was asked to vacate his office immediately following the CA rejection.

“Because he was just rejected, so he will have to vacate his position. And the President should appoint someone even in an acting capacity…to take over his place,” Sen. Panfilo Lacson said of Yasay.

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Yasay had left the Senate building shortly before Senate President Aquilino Pimentel III went down to convene the CA in plenary.

It was on the floor that Lacson, chair of the CA committee on foreign affairs that presided over Yasay’s confirmation hearings, announced that during an executive session, the 15 members present there had unanimously voted to reject Yasay’s appointment.

The vote came after the committee listened to Yasay answer more questions on his citizenship, and it was his exchange with Occidental Mindoro Rep. Josephine Ramirez-Sato that Lascon said committee members were convinced that the foreign secretary was not telling the truth on his citizenship.

Sato, who like Yasay had practiced law in the United States, was irked by Yasay’s continued reluctance to say he became a US citizen despite handing documents to her showing the latter  was granted US citizenship on Nov. 26, 1986.

She was particularly confused on Yasay’s assertion that his “preconceived intention” to return home to the Philippines had made null and void his application for US naturalization.

The Inquirer earlier reported about Yasay’s affidavit and formal renunciation of his US citizenship.

READ: Yasay: American, Filipino or stateless?

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Yasay first apologized for having “inadvertently misled” the commission when Sato had asked him at the Feb. 22 hearing that he did not have a US passport. He said when he made that statement it was in the context on the report of Rappler that he had a US passport issued in 2006 when he had no personal knowledge about it.

Yasay said that he was saying his US citizenship was null and void because the US Immigration and Nationality Act “provides that anyone who has preconceived intent to abandon his residency at the time of application is disqualified to that grant.”

“Am I made to believe you can lose an American citizenship by your own personal preconceived intention that you will not permanently reside in the US?” Sato asked Yasay, reminding him he had sworn allegiance to the US when he took his oath as a US citizen.

“For lack of better term, you fooled the USA when you applied for citizenship with a preconceived intention not to reside permanently in the US and abandon your citizenship in that country. Were you truthful in your oath of that country?” Sato asked.

Yasay admitted there was a “misrepresentation on my part for not divulging that.”

Sato also criticized Yasay for just sending thru mail his affidavit that he was no longer a US citizen in 1993 in New Jersey, which was not in compliance with the law as he had to personally appear before a US consular officer to renounce his citizenship which she said the latter did only on June 28, 2016.

She also said one has to wait for the US to announce approval of renunciation and in the case of Yasay, the US only did so last Feb. 9, 2017.

Eventually thru the motion of San Juan Rep. Ronaldo Zamora, the committee decided to end the questioning of Yasay and members went on executive session to vote whether they will reject or confirm the nominee.

When they returned after 10 minutes, Lacson announced the committee will disclose the result of its vote during the plenary session. And he did so when he tackled his committee report on Yasay’s confirmation.

In his speech on the floor, Lacson said the CA was not the ultimate forum to determine the nationality and or citizenship of Yasay, the body still was the “proper forum to determine the qualifications and fitness as Secretary of the DFA.”

He said the foremost requirement to be a member of the executive department “is the possession of Philippine citizenship.”

Lacson said they had gone over issues raised against Yasay on his citizenship issue and that after a unanimous vote of the present 15 members, they voted to reject his appointment. He then moved for the rejection of Yasay’s appointment and because no one objected, Pimentel announced Lacson’s motion was approved.

To reporters later, Lacson said the committee felt Yasay was not telling the truth and not being forthright.

“The best evidence is the records. If records contradict what you are saying even when you’re under oath then your testimony wont bear weight against the records,” he said.

He said the decision showed the commission “cannot be a rubber stamp of the executive department.”

“We all know how close Atty. Yasay is to the President and it did not deter the commission from acting independently,” Lacson added.

Asked whether the President can still reappoint Yasay, Lacson said this cannot be done because the CA had already rejected him.

Lacson acknowledged that any taxpayer can file perjury charges against Yasay for lying in a congressional body and even charged of usurpation of public functions when the latter served as first commissioner of the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and later as its chair, from 1993 to 2000 when he was still a US citizen.

This was echoed by Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon who said Yasay, “caught in a web of legal complications,” opened himself to charges.

Beside perjury for lying to the CA, Drilon said he could face usurpation of public functions charge because he was not qualified to discharge functions not only as SEC chair before but also as DFA secretary.

“The decision he rendered as SEC member or chair can now be questioned as it was rendered by a non Filipino,” Drilon told reporters.

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TAGS: Commission on Appointments, DFA, government Appointees, Perfecto Yasay, Senate
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