MANILA, Philippines – President Rodrigo Duterte went on national television just to defend Acting Foreign Secretary Perfecto Yasay Jr amid public criticism and even a rumor that he will be relieved of his post.
"I would like to arrest a few rumors going around that Secretary Yasay of the Department of Foreign Affairs is on his way out. I would like to assure the secretary that he is in good company and there's no truth to the rumor that there is a plan for his ouster, far from it actually," said Duterte in a video message released by Radio Television Malacañang on Tuesday, July 19.
Duterte said all of Yasay's pronouncements originate from him.
"Yasay speaks for me. Everything he says in public, both national and international, comes from my guidance and he has my backing and full support," said the Philippine president.
"I said I have placed my entire trust in him to take care, as being the spokesman for foreign affairs. Sana matapos na 'yang haka-haka (I hope the speculations stop)," Duterte added.
Duterte said Yasay only accepted his offer to be acting foreign secretary on condition that he would only serve for a few months. Yasay supposedly wants to return to teaching in the United States.
"I would like the Philippines to know that I personally pleaded with Secretary Yasay to join my government because he is competent and honest, and he knows his business," said Duterte.
Yasay came under fire, especially on social media, for his seemingly "gloomy" reaction to the historic ruling on the West Philippine Sea that favors the Philippines.
Some interpreted his seemingly non-celebratory mood as a signal of the Duterte administration's friendliness toward China. It also fueled speculation that Duterte would not use the favorable ruling to maximum advantage. (READ: PH-China ruling: Why Yasay wasn't smiling)
This includes a statement he made during an interview with Agence France-Presse that the Philippines is willing to share resources in the West Philippine Sea.
This drew flak online, with critics saying the Duterte administration is set to give up the Philippines' rights over the West Philippine Sea. It also prompted Supreme Court Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio to say the Philippine Constitution bans "joint development" within the country's Exclusive Economic Zone.
Yasay's comments during the first Duterte Cabinet meeting fueled concerns the new administration is afraid of China.
Yasay, a former chair of the Securities and Exchange Commission, has had no previous experience in the DFA. – Rappler.com
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.