AFTER being rejected as secretary of the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) by the Commission on Appointments, lawyer Perfecto Yasay Jr. could become stateless if he is not allowed to renew his Philippine passport.
This was according to Senate Majority leader Vicente Sotto 3rd, who said Yasay should begin working on reacquiring his Philippine citizenship and renewing his passport.
“He (Yasay) should renew his Filipino citizenship,” Sotto said.
Yasay was said to have been issued a passport in 2013, which will expire in 2018. The DFA is studying whether Yasay could legally have his passport renewed.
Questions about Yasay’s citizenship arose during his confirmation hearings, after he made contradicting statements regarding his supposed possession of an American passport. Yasay, it turned out, did not formally renounce his previous US citizenship until shortly before he joined the Duterte Cabinet.
In an earlier statement to the commission’s panel on foreign affairs, Yasay claimed he never had a US passport. But in a television interview after facing the body, he admitted that he used to own a US passport, but had returned it together with his naturalization certificate.
Yasay, during the resumption of the confirmation hearings last week, insisted he did not lie to the committee but admitted he did not make a full disclosure about the matter because he got nervous.
Because of inconsistencies in his statements, the panel unanimously voted to reject Yasay’s appointment, which was approved by the plenary of the powerful appointments body.
Senator Panfilo Lacson, chairman of the committee on foreign affairs, said the former DFA secretary could still be a Filipino citizen because he was issued a passport by the Philippine government.
“Since his Philippine passport is merely up for renewal, it may be presumed that he has gotten back his Filipino citizenship,” Lacson said in a text message.
The final arbiter, however, is the Supreme Court, he said.
Analyst Ramon Casiple said Yasay won’t necessarily lose his citizenship in case the DFA refuses to renew his Philippine passport.
Casiple argued that the determination of citizenship is not solely based on possession of a passport, as the Philippines has a law on dual citizenship.
Besides, the political analyst said, the DFA is only reviewing his passport application, which means the existing passport remains valid.
Lacson also dismissed claims the rejection of Yasay’s appointment may have something to do with the looming appointment of Sen. Alan Peter Cayetano to the DFA.
Even if the commission confirmed the appointment of Yasay as Foreign Affairs secretary, President Rodrigo Duterte still had the prerogative to appoint someone else, he said.
“The rejection by the [commission]of the appointment of Attorney Yasay has absolutely nothing to do with Senator Cayetano,” said Lacson.
The President has repeatedly vowed to name Cayetano to the DFA after the one-year ban on appointing losing election candidates to government posts. Cayetano, Duterte’s running mate in the May 2016 elections, lost to Vice President Maria Leonor “Leni” Robredo.
Sotto agreed with Lacson that Yasay’s rejection was not in any way connected with Cayetano’s impending appointment.
Asked if the President had somehow tried to save Yasay or requested the commission to confirm his appointment, Sotto said there was no such move.
Sotto, the assistant majority leader of commission, said Duterte never tried to interfere with the processes of the appointments body. Lacson also confirmed that the President did not lift a finger to save Yasay.
He noted that the President immediately appointed an acting DFA secretary upon learning of the commission’s decision to reject Yasay.