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Blunders and missteps mar Yasay’s three months as foreign affairs secretary

It must be emphasized that from the start, President Rodrigo Duterte has essentially admitted that Secretary Perfecto Yasay is a mere seat-warmer at the helm of Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA).

During the campaign season, Duterte repeatedly said that if Senator Alan Cayetano wins as Vice President, he will lead either the DFA or the Department of Justice. Because of a constitutional provision barring losing candidates from being appointed to a government post for one year, Cayetano will have to wait until mid-2017 before he can be officially part of Duterte’s cabinet.

Yasay has impeccable legal credentials, but he does not have much background on diplomacy. A former Chair of the Securities and Exchange Commission, he is best known for testifying in the impeachment trial of former President Joseph Ejercito Estrada regarding the latter’s alleged involvement in insider trading. In the succeeding years, he ran for senator (2004) and vice president (2010) but his bids failed miserably.

perfecto yasay DFA secretary

Foreign Affairs Secretary Perfecto Yasay speaking before the United Nations General Assembly in New York (Photo taken from his Facebook page)

Yasay’s three months at the helm of DFA has been marked with many gaffes centering on two issues – President Duterte’s neither-here-nor-there stand on the territorial dispute with China and the administration’s reaction to the international community’s criticisms of its conduct of the War on Drugs.

For example, many netizens complained last July that Yasay looked sad when announcing the government’s reaction to the Philippines’ victory over China in its arbitration case before the International Tribunal on the Laws of the Seas – a stark contrast to his cheerful demeanor when talking to China’s envoy to the country. In a meeting with his fellow Southeast Asian foreign ministers later that month in Laos, Yasay stopped the ASEAN from mentioning the Philippines’ victory in a joint communique that it released even if he initially requested its inclusion.

Now, if veteran journalist Ellen Tordesillas is to be believed, then Yasay is probably be on his way out already. Quoting sources within the diplomatic circle, Tordesillas wrote on her blog two days ago that former President and now Pampanga Rep. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo is being rumored to be the next Secretary of Foreign Affairs replacing him.

(This is the first of a two-part post. The second part discusses the pluses and minuses of having former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo as the next foreign affairs secretary.)

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