Yasay lied under oath, now admits owning U.S. passport

MANILA, Philippines – Months after claiming he "did not own a US passport," and days after stressing under oath that he "never" did, Foreign Secretary Perfecto Yasay Jr admitted on Monday, March 6, that he, in fact, "had an American passport."

"I had an American passport, but that has already been returned together with my naturalization certificate," Yasay told anchor Karen Davila on ANC's Headstart on Monday.

This statement shows that Yasay, who is facing possible perjury charges over his citizenship, lied about his American passport when Rappler asked him about it in 2016, and when the Commission on Appointments (CA) grilled him about it this year.

Asked if he ever owned a US passport, Yasay told Rappler on November 29, 2016, "I did not own a US passport, all right?"

Watch the video of that statement here:

Yasay to CA: 'I never held any American passport'

Months later, during his confirmation hearing on February 22, Yasay was again asked if he ever owned a US passport.

Under oath, Yasay told the CA: "Your honor, Mr Chair, the information about allegedly my having an American passport given that particular number came from the publication by–, in media, and even in the internet, by a media outfit known as Rappler, and I do not have any information about the truth of that allegation."

Pressed by Occidental Mindoro Representative Josephine Ramirez Sato for a categorical answer, Yasay said, "What I'm saying is that I do not have any information about that passport at all." 

Grilled by Sato if this means he never held that passport, Yasay responded that, based on his personal knowledge, "I never held any American passport."

Watch the video of that CA hearing here:

Ted Laguatan, an immigration lawyer based in the US, 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."

The US Code states, "No passport shall be granted or issued to or verified for any other persons than those owing allegiance, whether citizens or not, to the United States."

The US State Department further clarifies that "US passports, either in book or card format, are issued only to US citizens or non-citizen nationals."

Laguatan pointed out to Rappler that non-citizen nationals "are rare." They "are those with ties to two American possessions – Swain Islands and American Samoa." 

Senator Panfilo Lacson, chairman of the CA foreign affairs committee, said Yasay could face perjury charges. Lacson made this comment after Yasay told the CA, under oath in a public hearing, that he never became a US citizen despite evidence showing otherwise. (READ: TIMELINE: When Foreign Secretary Yasay was a foreigner

Below, are transcripts from November 2016 and February and March 2017, showing Yasay's statements about his US passport. We have underlined the pertinent portions.

March 6, 2017
YASAY'S INTERVIEW ON ANC'S HEADSTART

ANCHOR KAREN DAVILA: You've never had an American passport? 

SECRETARY PERFECTO YASAY JR: I had an American passport, but that has already been returned together with my naturalization certificate.

February 22, 2017
YASAY'S CONFIRMATION HEARING 

REPRESENTATIVE JOSEPHINE RAMIREZ SATO: We received an information, because we have some also investigative unit in the commission, and we received an information that you held an American passport number 121190223, and that you renounced American citizenship in a notice released by a US government IRS on Thursday, February 9, 2017. And this appeared in the Quarterly Publication of Individuals Who Have Chosen... (recording interrupted) So what can you say about this?

SECRETARY PERFECTO YASAY JR: Your honor, Mr Chair, the information about allegedly my having an American passport given that particular number came from the publication by–, in media, and even in the internet, by a media outfit known as Rappler, and I do not have any information about the truth of that allegation. However, with respect to applying for renunciation, let me say this fact to the commission here and now. And I have explained this to the delegation of the House of Representatives when I met with them the other day. When I returned to the United States as a Filipino in 1987, I came back with my Philippine passport. I did not have a US visa, a US passport. I came back and I was received as a Filipino because my Philippine passport was invalid at that time. And then in 1993, early in 1993, I executed that affidavit about admitting that I was not qualified to become an American citizen at all, which the United States government recognized and accepted. However, I have heard of rumors and reports about this media trying to inquire into my citizenship. At that time, while I felt that because my affidavit admitting disqualification as an American citizen, which was accepted by the American government, was the option and was a legally completed document to establish that fact, I wanted to come up with an official renunciation that was made here in the United States embassy referring to that old affidavit that I executed, which they already accepted. So if you will look at the records of that particular case, you will see that the renunciation that I made was a renunciation nunc pro tunc of the time that I precisely made that admission of being disqualiifed as an American citizen. There was nothing that I would lose. It will just add up to the clarification that I had to make to address the speculations that had been going all around in media. 

SATO: So just for the record, Mr Speaker, ah, Mr Secretary, so this passport number was never your passport as an American citizen?

YASAY: Yes, your honor. All I'm say–, what I'm saying is that I do not have any information about that passport at all.

SATO: You don't have any information, so that means you never held that passport?

YASAY: Yes, as far as I know, personal knowledge, I never held any American passport.

November 29, 2016
YASAY'S AMBUSH INTERVIEW WITH RAPPLER

REPORTER PATERNO ESMAQUEL II: Did you ever own a US passport?

SECRETARY PERFECTO YASAY JR: I did not own a US passport, all right? I really—, you know, I know you're from Rappler, and I would like to say this about what you've always been trying to do. But I'm putting an end to these speculations and I hope you will respect that. Thank you. – Rappler.com

Editor's Note: An earlier version of this story said Rappler asked Yasay about his citizenship on November 28, 2016. We regret this error. We have corrected this to say we interviewed him on November 29, 2016.

Paterno R. Esmaquel II

Paterno R. Esmaquel II, news editor of Rappler, specializes in covering religion and foreign affairs. He obtained his MA Journalism degree from Ateneo and later finished MSc Asian Studies (Religions in Plural Societies) at RSIS, Singapore. For story ideas or feedback, email him at pat.esmaquel@rappler.com.

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