CA confirms Cayetano as DFA chief

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, May 17) — The Commission on Appointments (CA) confirmed Wednesday the appointment of Alan Peter Cayetano as Foreign Affairs Secretary.

Senator Panfilo Lacson, chairperson of the Committee on foreign affairs, moved to approve Cayetano's appointment before the plenary session.

No member of the powerful CA objected to the motion, while four other lawmakers endorsed it: San Juan Rep. Ronaldo Zamora, and Senators Ralph Recto, Migz Zubiri and JV Ejercito.

They said Cayetano deserves to lead the Department of Foreign Affairs with his extensive experience in public service that will benefit Filipinos here and abroad.

"He will be steadfast in defending what is ours. To our OFWs (overseas Filipino workers) he will be the compassionate provider of service," Zamora said.

Ejercito said although he may not always agree with Cayetano on political issues, he believes Cayetano is fit for the post because he is "bold and always takes into account the welfare of the Filipinos."

Cayetano may have been known as President Rodrigo Duterte's staunch defender, but Recto said more than that, Cayetano is "a patriot and a professional."

Senate President Koko Pimentel said Cayetano remains a senator until he takes his oath of office as Foreign Affairs Secretary. Cayetano served as chair of the Senate committee on foreign relations.

Cayetano was appointed by President Rodrigo Duterte to the DFA post on May 10, a day after the one-year ban to appoint losing candidates in last year's elections lapsed. Cayetano was Duterte's running mate.

Also read: Duterte appoints Cayetano as DFA chief

'Shortest confirmation hearing'

Earlier on Wednesday, Cayetano breezed through his confirmation hearing before the CA's foreign affairs committee. The panel approved his nomination in less than five minutes, with no oppositors.

Lacson said it was perhaps the "shortest confirmation hearing of a Cabinet Secretary."

Cayetano, who was also a member of the CA, thanked his colleagues for a swift confirmation.

"I make a commitment to you today and I will do my best na hindi ko kayo mapahiya (I won't fail you)," Cayetano told members of the CA.

He replaces Perfecto Yasay Jr. who, unlike Cayetano, was grilled by lawmakers during his confirmation hearings, and was eventually rejected for lying under oath and failing to declare his U.S. citizenship in 1986. Undersecretary Enrique Manalo took over the post in an acting capacity.

Yasay was the first appointee to have received a rejection. The other was then Environment chief Gina Lopez, who was replaced by Roy Cimatu, former AFP chief of staff.

Also read: CA rejects Yasay's appointment as DFA Chief

Cayetano's plans

In a chance interview with reporters prior to his confirmation, Cayetano said he will continue to speak for the President, but using "a more diplomatic language."

"I will continue to speak if I think it is necessary but not in the political manner that was available to me when I was in the Senate. Because as chief diplomat kailangan isaalang-alang yung departmatento at yung relationships natin sa ibang bansa (I need to think of the department and the country's relationships with other countries," Cayetano said.

Cayetano also said he will use an "objective-based" approach to "secure every inch of our national territory," including the country's claim in the South China Sea. His said his objectives would be to talk to the countries and manage the situation.

Aside from the Philippines and China, Taiwan, Vietnam, Malaysia, and Brunei also have competing claims in the disputed waters.

25 years in public service

Prior to his appointment at the DFA, Cayetano had joined the President in official visits abroad.

He also led the Philippine delegation to the Universal Periodic Review of the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva, Switzerland where he defended the country's war on drugs - together with Deputy Executive Secretary Menardo Guevarra.

Cayetano started his political career when he was elected number one councilor of then municipality of Taguig in 1992.

He then became vice mayor of Taguig in 1995 and representative of the lone district of Taguig-Pateros for three consecutive terms from 1998 to 2007.

He was elected senator in 2007 and 2013. His term was supposed to expire on 2019, but he will be deemed resigned when he assumes the role of DFA Secretary.

CNN Philippines' JC Gotinga contributed to this report.