Enrique Manalo is acting foreign secretary

MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – President Rodrigo Duterte appointed Foreign Undersecretary for Policy Enrique Manalo as acting foreign secretary after Perfecto Yasay Jr was thumbed down by the Commission on Appointments (CA), Malacañang announced on Thursday, March 9.

"Undersecretary Enrique Manalo has been designated and appointed as Acting Secretary of the Department of Foreign Affairs by President Rodrigo Roa Duterte," Presidential Spokesman Ernesto Abella said in a statement on Thursday.

"Usec Manalo is an excellent transition man and has been on top of many crucial issues together with Atty Perfecto Yasay," Abella added.

The Palace spokesman said in a news briefing on Thursday that Manalo "will hold the position until the President appoints a new secretary."

Manalo is a well-respected career diplomat who holds a critical post in the department. (READ: Enrique Manalo: Son of envoys, now father of DFA)

He served as ambassador to the United Kingdom and Belgium, and was the Philippines' Permanent Representative to the United Nations in Geneva, and Deputy Permanent Representative to the UN in New York.

Manalo hails from a family of diplomats. His late father, Armando Manalo, was a journalist who also was an ambassador to Belgium and political adviser of the Philippine Misson to the UN.

His mother, Rosario Manalo, won a seat in June last year at the UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women. She served as chairperson of the UN Commission on the Status of Women from 1984 to 1986 and was ambassador to Belgium, France, and Sweden. 

Manalo was Yasay's point-person for the Philippines' chairmanship of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), another reason why Manalo is a logical choice for Duterte.  

The former foreign secretary had earlier cited the Philippines' ASEAN chairmanship this year as among the reasons why he should be confirmed by the CA.

"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," Yasay said on February 22.

Duterte did not mention Yasay during his roughly 50-minute speech a few hours after the CA rejected the Cabinet member's appointment over questions on his US citizenship. (READ: U.S. citizen before? Yasay refuses to say yes or no)

If Duterte makes good on his previous pronouncements, Manalo will only be acting foreign secretary until May, when Senator Alan Peter Cayetano is allowed by law to take over the post. 

Cayetano, Duterte's running mate during the 2016 elections, was the President's top pick for foreign secretary but he could not appoint him immediately because of the one-year appointment ban on losing candidates. 

At the Palace news briefing, Abella declined to comment on whether Cayetano would take over the DFA next. – Rappler.com

Pia Ranada

Pia Ranada covers the Office of the President and Bangsamoro regional issues for Rappler. While helping out with desk duties, she also watches the environment sector and the local government of Quezon City. For tips or story suggestions, you can reach her at pia.ranada@rappler.com.

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