CA Rejects Yasay: Media Follow Paper Trail
“I AM a Filipino citizen. I am not an American, I am not a dual citizen, I am not stateless. I am a Filipino citizen, and I am a Filipino in thought, in word, and in deed.”
Hounded by the doubts about his ineligibility for government office, Perfecto Yasay stood his ground through the period until the Commission on Appointments (CA) unanimously rejected his nomination as Secretary of Foreign Affairs. The fifteen members of the CA made the decision on March 8. Yasay had held the position for eight months. The president has since appointed Enrique Manalo, a career officer holding the post of undersecretary at Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA).
The media dealt with the issue of Yasay’s citizenship by checking out relevant documents and their dates as the subject of the controversy flip-flopped, resorting to evasive answers when he was questioned by the media. He denied in November 2016 that he was, at a certain point, an American citizen yet admitted on the March 6, 2017 episode of ANC’s Headstart with Karen Davila that he was indeed granted US citizenship. Yasay explained that since he had pre-conceived intent to return to the Philippines when he applied for citizenship in the US, he “did not legally acquire” it, and that “from his viewpoint”, he remained a Filipino. Asked by Davila whether it was fair to say that “the US got it wrong,” Yasay replied that it was his detractors who got it wrong.
Following the document trail, the media relied on several key documents to clarify the citizenship question. The CA, which first held only the affidavit provided by Yasay, then picked up these documents for actual discussion in the hearings.
The Inquirer’s “Yasay affidavit and other documents” published copies of documents that showed Yasay was an American citizen: Yasay’s own affidavit indicating that he took his oath as a US citizen in 1986, and a certificate of loss of nationality which was approved by the US Embassy only in June 28, 2016—two days before he took oath as DFA secretary.
Rappler’s “U.S. lists Yasay among former American citizens” included the “Quarterly Publication of Individuals, Who Have Chosen to Expatriate” released by the US Internal Revenue Service (IRS). Yasay’s name was on this list, but it was not specified when he was expatriated.
Rappler followed the issue of Yasay’s citizenship since November last year, earning the ire of the Yasay who complained about Rappler even during the hearings. But Rappler’s focus was vindicated by the CA’s unanimous decision.
The scrutiny of official documents paid off as it usually does, demonstrating the process of verification as a core journalistic practice. In this case, the media proved helpful to the CA. Hopefully, public officials will undertake more proactive searches for documentary proof on their own.