MANILA, Philippines – While saying that this "is the prerogative of the President," Foreign Secretary Perfecto Yasay Jr warned that President Rodrigo Duterte should not replace him this year if he is not incompetent.
In his confirmation hearing, Yasay explained that the Philippines is chairing the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) this year.
Referring to the possibility that Duterte will sack him, Yasay said, "I will be worried in the sense that we are now chairing ASEAN."
"For somebody to be replaced as secretary of foreign affairs in midstream, while our chairmanship of ASEAN is moving forward, for reasons other than the competence of the person concerned, I think, will not send a good signal. So I am worried in that respect. But again, it is the prerogative of the President to do that," Yasay said in the February 22 confirmation hearing.
In any case, Yasay claimed he does not know that President Rodrigo Duterte wants to replace him, despite the President's repeated pronouncements.
"I would like to tell everyone here that I have never gotten any instructions or any notice from the President that he was going to replace me," Yasay said.
Duterte, however, said as early as May 16, 2016, before Yasay accepted his post, that he plans to eventually name Senator Alan Peter Cayetano his foreign secretary.
Cayetano was Duterte's defeated running mate in the 2016 elections.
Duterte repeated on December 29, 2016, that Cayetano would replace Yasay after May 9, the end of the one-year ban on appointing defeated candidates. "Alan Cayetano will be coming in to take over his post," Duterte said.
Yasay is facing issues concerning his US citizenship and his flip-flopping position on the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea) dispute. (READ: On U.S. citizenship: Did Yasay commit perjury?) – Rappler.com
Paterno R. Esmaquel II is a senior reporter leading Rappler’s coverage of religion and foreign affairs. He finished MA Journalism in Ateneo and MSc Asian Studies (Religions in Plural Societies) at RSIS, Singapore. For story ideas or feedback, email him at email@example.com.