Foreign Affairs Secretary Perfecto Yasay was heard saying that he did not try to pitch The Hague ruling to be included in the ASEAN communiqué, based on a copy of a recording obtained by Rappler on July 28.
Rappler noted that it was an ambush interview with Yasay in Vientiane, Laos on July 26.
A reporter can be heard asking Yasay if the Philippines pitched for the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) ruling over the West Philippine Sea to be included in the ASEAN joint statement.
“Hindi, hindi. Never, never did,” Yasay responded.
He further explained why he did not make the pitch.
“Please, okay, don’t put words into my mouth. I’d like you to understand this. We are obligated under the Constitution to make sure that we resolve our disputes peacefully. We renounce war as an instrument of policy, and we would like to promote amity with all nations. ‘Yan ang ating mandate. It’s okay, it’s okay. Go ahead, please. So this is the point I’d like to emphasize. Maliwanag na ‘yung sinasabi natin. Hindi naman kasama ‘yung ibang nasyon doon sa pag-file natin ng kaso sa arbitral tribunal, so bakit tayo mamimilit na ilalagay ‘yan sa ASEAN statement? Hindi naman kasama. May claims nga ‘yung other ASEAN countries like Indonesia, Malaysia, Brunei, and the Philippines, pero hindi sila kasama sa kaso na ito.”
According to Rappler, a part of Yasay’s answer was included in Agence France-Presse’s (AFP) report, particularly this statement, “Hindi naman kasama yung nasyon doon sa pag-file natin ng kaso sa arbitral tribunal, so bakit tayo mamimilit na ilalagay yan sa ASEAN statement?”
So those reporters asking Yasay in the recording were Filipinos working for Agence France-Presse.
Rappler also reported that they verified and confirmed that the interview really happened by asking another reporter who covered Yasay during the ASEAN.
Here’s a copy of the audio recording of Yasay’s interview in Laos.
Yasay denied interview in Laos
During a press briefing at the Department of Foreign Affairs on July 27, Rappler reporter Paterno Esmael asked Yasay about the AFP quoting him saying in Laos why he did not insist on including The Hague ruling in the ASEAN statement.
Yasay responded by denying that he never had an interview with reporters in Laos.
“No, I did not have any interview with reporters in Laos. I had, only yesterday, an interview with the Philippine press, explaining to them that we have arrived at a joint communiqué. Never mentioned that. And this is precisely the point I want to say now. Whether you would raise that as true or not, is water under the bridge. And I am denying that I have said this. The important thing is, ASEAN came up with a unified statement, and it came up with that joint communiqué report.”
When the Rappler reporter said that the reporters who interviewed him were Filipinos working for international agencies, Yasay made his denial clear.
“Yes, yes. I hope you will not belabor that point because as I’ve said, I’ve never said those things, all right? And please don’t put words into my mouth.”
Here’s Rappler’s video of Yasay’s denial about the things he said in his Laos interview:
In the same press briefing at the DFA, Yasay also said that he “vigorously” pushed for the inclusion of The Hague ruling in the ASEAN statement.
“Yes, vigorously. I pushed for the inclusion and mentioning of the arbitral tribunal award. Again, this was a diplomatic tack that had to be made, but we knew that there was a middle ground without compromising the rights of the Philippines and the award that was recognized by the arbitral tribunal. And I’m very happy with the joint communiqué statement and the unified statement of ASEAN,” Yasay said.
Yasay’s contradicting statements only made the picture of how the Philippines could have acted at the ASEAN meeting confusing. Why he would have told reporters in Laos that he didn’t pitch for the ASEAN statement to cite The Hague ruling and why he would then tell reporters in the Philippines that he pushed for its inclusion “vigorously” only Yasay knows.
But now, he can no longer deny telling what he told reporters in Laos, the same way he denied it in front of Philippine reporters because Rappler has already posted the recording of that interview. Let’s see what he would come up next, while saying “Please don’t put words into my mouth” when no one did.