U.S. lists Yasay among former American citizens

Paterno R. Esmaquel II

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U.S. lists Yasay among former American citizens
The name 'Perfecto Rivas Yasay Jr' appears in the US government's 'Quarterly Publication of Individuals, Who Have Chosen to Expatriate'

UNDER SCRUTINY. Philippine Foreign Secretary Perfecto Yasay Jr appears on the US list of individuals 'who have chosen to expatriate.' File photo by Ye Aung Thu/AFP

HAWAII, USA – While Philippine Foreign Secretary Perfecto Yasay Jr vehemently denies that he was ever a US citizen, a notice released by the US government on Thursday, February 9, listed Yasay among American citizens “who lost citizenship.”

The name “Perfecto Rivas Yasay Jr” appeared in the “Quarterly Publication of Individuals, Who Have Chosen to Expatriate, as Required by Section 6039G,” according to a notice released by the US Internal Revenue Service (IRS) on Thursday.

The IRS said the list contains the names “of each individual losing United States citizenship” based on information received as of December 31, 2016. 

It also includes “long-term residents” of the US, who “are treated as if they were citizens of the United States who lost citizenship.”

The list does not indicate when Yasay had “chosen to expatriate.”

The IRS publishes this notice every quarter, in compliance with the US Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996, as amended. The last time the IRS released this notice was on November 10, 2016. (See the US government publication below)

Rappler sought Yasay for comment and an explanation via email and text message, but he has not yet responded as of posting time. We also tried calling him several times Friday morning but he could not be reached.

We will update this story once he responds to our attempts to get his side. 

It was the first time Yasay’s name appeared on the list since he became the Philippines’ top diplomat on June 30, 2016.

In the case of Senator Grace Poe, whose US citizenship became an issue when she ran for president, the IRS included her in its list of former US citizens in July 2012. Her inclusion in the IRS list came a year after she renounced her US citizenship before the US vice consul in Manila in July 2011.

Confirmed by 4 independent sources

The US list comes as Yasay faces scrutiny over his US citizenship.

The Philippine Commission on Appointments (CA) on Wednesday, February 8, delayed the confirmation of Yasay as DFA chief due to the unanswered question about his citizenship.

Rappler reported on January 10 that Yasay used to be a US citizen according to 4 independent sources.

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.

It was unclear when, where, and how Yasay renounced his US citizenship, but the last time he reportedly used his passport – 2009 – was the year he filed his Philippine vice-presidential bid. Philippine law requires candidates for public office to renounce “any and all foreign citizenship.”

Yasay, however, had stressed that he was never a US citizen at any point of his life.

‘I have never been a US citizen’

On November 28, 2016, an irked Yasay responded to Rappler’s questions about his citizenship, saying, “I am a Filipino, I have always been a Filipino, and I have never been a US citizen. I continue to be a Filipino, so that’s the end of the story.”

Asked if he ever owned a US passport, Yasay replied, “I did not own a US passport, all right?” (Watch more in the video below)

Under the Philippine Citizenship Retention and Re-acquisition Act of 2003 or Republic Act (RA) 9225, citizens of another country cannot be appointed public officials.

If Yasay renounced his citizenship before taking office on June 30, 2016, the secretary still faces an ethical question, having claimed that he was never a US citizen despite indications that he was.

Based on its rules, the CA is tasked to examine not only the “competence and fitness” of presidential appointees, but also their “integrity”. 

Yasay, 70, lived and worked in the US for years.

He was admitted to the New York Bar in 1979, according to data from the New York State Unified Court System. He also taught law as a visiting professor at the William S. Richardson School of Law at the University of Hawaii.

His wife Cecile used to work under Senator Donna Mercado Kim of Hawaii. 

Years after living and working in the US, Yasay as the Philippines’ top diplomat said in a statement, “America has failed us.” – with reports from Camille Elemia/Rappler.com

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Paterno R. Esmaquel II

Paterno R. Esmaquel II, news editor of Rappler, specializes in covering 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 pat.esmaquel@rappler.com