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Duterte’s foreign office nominee replaced over citizenship lie

Yasay acquired US citizenship in 1986 but kept the senate in the dark about it

Image Credit: Reuters
Philippine Foreign Secretary Perfecto Yasay speaks during a meeting of the ASEAN foreign ministers meeting in Vientiane, Laos
Gulf News

Manila: An acting foreign affairs secretary has been named by Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte after the senate on Wednesday nixed the leader’s personal choice for the post, Perfecto Yasay Jr, amid questions over the latter’s citizenship.

Enrique Manalo, who previously held the post of foreign affairs undersecretary, is now the acting chief of the critical international affairs post.

“The department of foreign affairs welcomes the appointment of undersecretary Enrique Manalo is currently the acting secretary of foreign affairs,” the department of foreign affairs said in a statement on Thursday.

Manalo is a seasoned career diplomat who was appointed to a number of posts.

On Wednesday, senator Panfilo Lacson, who headed the senate sub-committee charged with appointments of executives to the department of foreign affairs rejected Yasay’s appointment while providing reasons for the panel’s decision.

Lacson said the panel was able to obtain documents that showed Yasay had acquired citizenship to the United States in 1986. He said the appointee had hidden this fact from the senate.

Under the rules on presidential appointees to cabinet posts, those appointed should be Philippine citizens at the time of their appointment.

“The ad interim [appointment] of secretary Yasay is rejected,” Lacson, said during a plenary session.

“In the short course of time since the appointment of secretary Yasay, various compelling issues have been levelled at him in magnified proportions — all considerably relevant and pertinent to the deliberation of his fitness and qualification as the foreign affairs secretary,” Lacson said.

Yasay had admitted that he had a US passport but argued that he had already reacquired his Philippine citizenship. He claimed he had knowledge of the intricacy having worked as an immigration lawyer during his stay in the US during the 1980s.

As foreign affairs undersecretary before his interim appointment, Manalo had been at the forefront in addressing several critical issues on foreign policy. His career in the Philippine Foreign Service spans nearly four decades after he joined the department in 1979.

Manalo is the son of the late ambassador Armando Manalo, a journalist and former envoy to Belgium and political adviser of the Philippine mission to the United Nations. His mother is ambassador Rosario Manalo, the first female career diplomat of the department of foreign affairs who was recently elected by acclamation as the rapporteur of the 23-member Committee of Experts of the United Nations Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW).

Manalo had been appointed DFA’s undersecretary for policy twice in the past, first for three years from 2007 to 2010, and then from 2016 to 2017. He previously served as the Philippine ambassador to the United Kingdom from 2011 to 2016; non-resident Philippine ambassador to Ireland from 2013 to 2016; Philippine ambassador to Belgium and Luxembourg, and head of the Philippine mission to the European Union from 2010 to 2011; and Philippine ambassador and permanent representative to the Philippine mission to the United Nations and other international organisations in Geneva, Switzerland from 2003 to 2007