MANILA, Philippines – The Commission on Appointments delayed the confirmation of Foreign Secretary Perfecto Yasay Jr over his unanswered citizenship issue.
The CA issued a notice of hearing on Yasay's confirmation for Wednesday, February 8, at 9 am, but the Cabinet official was a no-show. Only the 5 ambassadors scheduled for the day appeared before the CA.
San Juan Representative Ronaldo Zamora, CA vice chairman, said the 12-man contingent of the House of Representatives requested to delay the confirmation. The House group has a practice of questioning an appointee first before the latter faces the CA committee, and then the plenary.
Asked for the basis of their request, Zamora cited the Rappler article that showed Yasay, despite his denial, owned US passports. (READ: US citizenship issue hounds Yasay ahead of CA confirmation)
"Several reasons. Well you're one of them," Zamora told the media which included a Rappler reporter. "You came up with a story that we want him to respond to."
He added, referring to the Rappler story: "'Di ba (Isn't it that) in your story that all of us read, nakalagay doon na (it's stated there that) he carried an American passport. You even gave the numbers. You also said his wife and his children are all American citizens. We want him to tell us, 'Ito totoo but hindi na 'ko (This is true but I'm no longer an) American citizen, although I was an American citizen at one time.'"
Zamora said Yasay has yet to respond to their questions. They originally scheduled the House contingent's meeting with the secretary on Monday, February 13, but Yasay has a previously set engagement. It has been moved to the week after, Monday, February 20.
"We have already said there is [a question], would you like to respond? Hindi pa sumasagot. Ayaw naman namin unahan (He hasn't responded yet. We don't want to preempt him) because we have not had a meeting. I scheduled a meeting next Monday with him but he's going to be hosting the ASEAN something. He asked us for Monday after next, that will be 20th," Zamora said.
Senator Panfilo Lacson, CA committee on foreign affairs chairman, said Yasay's confirmation has been reset to Wednesday, February 22.
Rappler has repeatedly asked Yasay for his side but to no avail.
While Yasay said he was never an American and never owned a US passport, at least 4 independent sources told Rappler otherwise.
In separate correspondences, two US government sources confirmed to Rappler that Yasay used to be a US citizen. They spoke on condition of anonymity because US privacy laws bar them from officially confirming if Yasay was an American.
In the Philippines, two other sources confirmed that Yasay used to own a US passport. Rappler found out that he had a US passport with No. 121190223, which he supposedly used in travels from 2007 to 2009.
Yasay renounced his US citizenship, according to at least two sources privy to the information, and used his US passport for the last time for travels to the Philippines in 2009. But he denied he was ever a US citizen when asked directly.
Ted Laguatan, a US-based immigration lawyer, explained that "only US citizens can have US passports." Recognized as an expert-specialist in immigration law by the California State Bar, Laguatan also said, "If a person holds a valid US passport, he is undoubtedly a US citizen." – Rappler.com
Camille Elemia is Rappler's lead reporter for media, disinformation issues, 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 email@example.com