THERE was nothing congressional leaders could do as regards the Commission on Appointments’ rejection of Perfecto Yasay Jr.’s appointment as secretary of Foreign Affairs, President Rodrigo Duterte admitted on Thursday night.
The President said congressional leaders told him there was no way Yasay could hurdle the appointments body because of concerns over his previous US citizenship.
“They also told me that the issue of Yasay is…beyond talking. Cannot be saved anymore,” the President told reporters in Davao City.
Duterte on Tuesday night met Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez and Senate President Aquilino Pimentel 3rd in Malacañang. The following day, Wednesday, the powerful appointments body rejected Yasay’s ad interim appointment after lawmakers claimed he lied when he said he was not an American citizen and that he did not hold a US passport.
Duterte explained that Yasay went to US to seek asylum, as he was among the individuals included in the lookout list during the Martial Law years.
He claimed Yasay did not really want to live in the US but avoided the Philippines because he was “wanted.” Yasay left the Philippines in 1978 and was petitioned by his wife, an American citizen.
“Yasay was taken out allegedly for lying about his citizenship. I don’t know what happened but Yasay and I, we’re roommates. But sometime when Martial Law was declared, he was gone, along with [former senator Ernesto]Maceda because they’re in the list of wanted [persons], as shown by the police. The next thing I knew, they surfaced in America,” Duterte said.
“After the Martial Law years, they came back. I don’t know what really happened along the way. But definitely, I can say Yasay was there not [because]his own choice, to live in America, but rather, he was seeking asylum,” he added.
Duterte previously said his May 2016 running mate, Sen. Alan Peter Cayetano, would be appointed Foreign Affairs secretary when the one-year appointment ban for those who lost in the elections expires.
On Thursday morning, Undersecretary Enrique Manalo was named acting head of the Department of Foreign Affairs.
Lopez to be bypassed
At the Senate, Sen. Panfilo Lacson said the ad interim appointment of Regina Paz “Gina” Lopez as secretary of the Department Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) would be deemed bypassed if she does not attend the session of the Commission on Appointments next week.
Lacson is a member of the appointments body’s committee on environment and natural resources that is handling Lopez’s confirmation hearings. The panel, headed by Sen. Emmanuel Pacquiao, on Thursday terminated hearings but did not act on Lopez’s nomination. Twenty-one of 23 persons opposing the nomination were allowed to speak to the panel.
Afterward, the committee scheduled an executive session on March 14 to decide on the fate of the DENR chief.
“The committee will meet in caucus in an executive session to deliberate and possibly vote to recommend her confirmation to the plenary,” Lacson said in a text message.
Lacson, who heads the foreign affairs committee of the appointments body, however said “her fate will still be deliberated by the commission proper.”
But there might not even be a plenary session next week as Lopez would be out of the country on a personal trip. “There will be no plenary next week. She is deemed bypassed,” Lacson said.
Lacson said President Rodrigo Duterte could reappoint Lopez before Congress resumes sessions in May for the commission to act on it before the legislature adjourns for a Lenten break.
On Thursday, the Gabriela women’s party dubbed Lopez a “woman of courage” for protecting indigenous peoples and going against miners.
“Gina Lopez has demonstrated that she can keep her studied position without fear of personal loss, keeping in mind the correctness of declaring our mineral and timber wealth for the sole benefit of Filipinos,” Gabriela secretary general Joms Salvador said in simple ceremonies as part of the organization’s observance of Women’s Month. CATHERINE S. VALENTE AND JEFFERSON ANTIPORDA