MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – After lying under oath before the Commission on Appointments (CA), Foreign Secretary Perfecto Yasay Jr will have a "very hard time" convincing the powerful body to confirm him as the country's top diplomat. (READ: Yasay lied under oath, now admits owning U.S. passport)
At least 3 CA members said this as Yasay on Monday, March 6, admitted to owning a US passport after months of claiming he "did not own" one.
Yasay is set to face the CA anew on Wednesday, March 8. (READ: On U.S. citizenship: Did Yasay commit perjury?)
Senate President Aquilino Pimentel III, CA chairman, said Yasay is in a "complicated situation."
Pimentel questioned Yasay's contradicting claims, saying his "words do not match documents."
"At saka from what I hear sa interview, he disqualified himself. Paano nangyari 'yun? How could you disqualify yourself from something you applied for? 'Di ko maintindihan. So let's ask him for his theory," Pimentel told reporters on Tuesday, March 7.
(And from what I hear in his interview, he disqualified himself. How did that happen? How could you disqualify yourself from something you applied for? I do not understand. So let's ask him for his theory.)
Senator Panfilo Lacson, chair of the CA committee on foreign affairs, said the panel believes the secretary really acquired foreign citizenship. (READ: U.S. citizenship issue hounds Yasay ahead of CA confirmation)
"[That's] another recantation… Maliwanag tinanong siya ni Congresswoman Nene Sato at sinabi niya never siya talagang nagkaroon o nag-naturalize (It was clear that Congresswoman Nene Sato asked him and he said he neither had a US passport nor was he naturalized)," Lacson said over radio dzMM on Monday, referring to the February 22 confirmation hearing.
"Kaya nga buo ang paniniwala ng members of the Commission on Appointments na talagang nagkaroon siya ng US citizenship (That's why members of the CA strongly believe Yasay really acquired US citizenship)," he said, citing the notice released by the US government on February 9, which listed Yasay among American citizens "who lost citizenship."
Despite owning a US passport, Yasay insisted in an interview with ANC on Monday that he never became an American citizen – a claim Lacson deems questionable.
"Paano ka magkakaroon ng US passport kung 'di ka US citizen? Hindi tayo pamilyar diyan pero paano ka magte-take oath kung 'di perfected ang iyong US citizenship? 'Di ka makaka-take oath kung kulang requirements," he added.
((How can you have a US passport if you are not a US citizen? I'm not familiar with that but how can you take an oath if you have not perfected your US citizenship? You cannot take an oath if you have not completed the requirements.)
Citing CA documents, Lacson said Yasay renounced his US citizenship on June 28, or just 2 days before President Rodrigo Duterte appointed him as the nation's top diplomat. (READ: TIMELINE: When Foreign Secretary Yasay was a foreigner)
Lacson earlier said Yasay might face a perjury complaint for lying under oath.
CA vs Yasay
The CA is "sure" to reject Yasay's appointment, said CA Majority Floor Leader and Isabela 1st District Representative Rodolfo Albano III.
At least 13 votes are needed to either confirm or reject an appointment. The House contingent, composed of 12 lawmakers, is known to vote as a bloc.
"A lot of our members are thinking of rejecting him because of lying. The House contingent is sure to vote for his rejection. They say that he can't be trusted," Albano told Rappler on Tuesday.
Davao Oriental 2nd District Representative Joel Mayo Almario shared the same view.
"There's a high possibility CA members will vote against him," Almario said in a message.
Senate Majority Leader Vicente Sotto III said lying before the CA is a serious offense.
"Mabigat 'yun (That's serious). If you can lie to the commission, you can lie to the people," Sotto told reporters in an interview.
"At the moment, it's likely that he will have difficulty with the CA with that particular incident. Parang (It's like) [Edgar] Matobato," he added, referring to the self-confessed hitman who accused Duterte of ordering killings when he was Davao City mayor.
Once rejected, Yasay can no longer be reappointed by the President, Sotto said.
For Senator Francis Pangilinan, Yasay should just withdraw his appointment "to spare the administration from further embarrassment."
"CA can either reject his appointment or bypass him," Pangilinan told Rappler.
Aside from lying under oath, the integrity of Yasay as the country's chief diplomat dealing with other countries is under a cloud of doubt as he used to be a foreigner.
"In relation to his job as foreign affairs secretary, his counterparts abroad might raise a question of integrity against him for being once a foreign citizen, which may compromise our international official dealings," Almario told Rappler in a message.
"With these developments that he might have lied about his US passport, it will be an uphill climb" towards confirmation, said Senator Joseph Victor Ejercito.
Yasay was chief of the Securities and Exchange Commission under the administration of Ejercito's father, former president and now Manila Mayor Joseph Estrada.
Camille Elemia is Rappler's lead reporter for media, disinformation, and democracy. She won an ILO award in 2017. She received the prestigious Fulbright-Hubert Humphrey fellowship in 2019, allowing her to further study media and politics in the US. Email firstname.lastname@example.org