MANILA, Philippines (AP) — Philippine lawmakers rejected the appointment of Perfecto Yasay as the country's top diplomat on Wednesday after his flip-flopping statements first denying then admitting he was once a U.S. citizen.
When he first appeared before the congressional Commission on Appointments' Foreign Affairs Committee last month, Yasay denied ever holding U.S. citizenship. During Wednesday's hearing, he admitted being granted U.S. citizenship in 1986, but maintained it was void because he did not intend to stay in the United States and that he abandoned his residency a year later.
He said he also submitted an affidavit to void U.S. citizenship, listing reasons for his ineligibility.
Filipino citizenship is a requirement for appointment to the executive branch.
Sen. Panfilo Lacson, head of the Foreign Affairs Committee, told reporters Yasay can no longer be reappointed and is considered out of the job.
Department of Foreign Affairs spokesman Charles Jose said they respect the commission's decision and will await President Rodrigo Duterte's appointment of Yasay's replacement.
The vacancy at the top diplomatic post comes as the Philippines this year hosts meetings and summits of the Southeast Asian leaders and their partners.
Yasay was castigated by lawmakers for inconsistencies in his testimony, with one lawmaker asking him why he would not just admit that he was at one time a U.S. citizen.
"I did not legally acquire U.S. citizenship," Yasay said. He apologized for initially denying being issued a U.S. passport, saying it referred to a news report that he acquired a U.S. passport in 2006.
Rep. Josephine Ramirez-Sato pointed out that Yasay's affidavit to revoke his U.S. citizenship came in 1993, or seven years after he obtained American citizenship. The affidavit was sent by registered mail instead of the required personal appearance before U.S. authorities, she added.