On the Appointment of Perfecto Yasay Jr. as DFA Secretary

Mr. Chairman, this representation as Chairman of the Committee on Foreign Affairs, presided over two public hearings on February 22 and March 8, 2017 to deliberate on the ad interim appointment of DFA Secretary-designate Perfecto Rivas Yasay, Jr. which was submitted to the Committee’s jurisdiction for its consideration.

In the short course of time since the appointment of Secretary Yasay, various compelling issues have been leveled at him in magnified proportions – all considerably relevant and pertinent to the deliberation of his fitness and qualification as the Foreign Affairs Secretary.The following are matters at hand: (1) whether or not his U.S. citizenship, granted in November 1986, was revoked through the Affidavit he executed in 1993 where he elaborated circumstances that made him “ineligible” for, and “disqualified” from having U.S. citizenship; (2) whether or not he has duly exercised his right of renunciation, and thereafter, formally reacquired his Filipino citizenship; (3) whether or not he was issued Filipino and U.S. Passports at the same time; and, (4) whether or not he has used his American passport from 2007 to 2009, supposedly during the time when he was no longer a U.S. citizen.

While this representation subscribes to the view that the Commission’s public hearing is not the ultimate forum to determine Atty. Yasay’s nationality and/or citizenship, it cannot be denied that the Commission on Appointments is also a proper forum to determine his qualifications and fitness as secretary of the Department of Foreign Affairs.

Let this be a reminder to everyone present in this hall, that by definition, an oath is a solemn declaration, accompanied by a swearing to God or a revered person or thing, that one’s statement is true or that one will be bound to a promise. The person making the oath implicitly invites punishment if the statement is untrue or the promise is broken. The legal effect of an oath is to subject the person to penalties for perjury if the testimony is false.

At the outset, it bears stressing that the foremost requirement to qualify for an appointive position as part of the Executive Department is the possession of Philippine citizenship. As stated in Section 45 of Executive Order No. 292, as amended, otherwise known as the Administrative Code of 1987, to be appointed as member of the President’s official family, “Secretaries shall be citizens of the Philippines and not less than twenty five years of age.”

Although the Constitution has vested the President the power to appoint members of the Executive Department, as a form of check and balance, it has also granted the Commission on Appointments the authority to approve or reject any appointee of the President belonging to the first level of appointment, founded on the qualification, fitness and character of the appointee.

Thus, in the exercise of the said right, the Commission has gone over the qualification and issues besetting the appointee. After careful deliberations of the foregoing circumstances, and upon a unanimous vote of 15 of its members present in a caucus held this morning, this Representation as Chairman of the Committee on Foreign Affairs, hereby moves to reject the ad interim appointment of Atty. Perfecto Rivas Yasay, Jr. as Secretary of Foreign Affairs.

I so move, Mr. Chairman.