MANILA (UPDATE) - Allegations on ABS-CBN chairman emeritus Eugenio "Gabby" Lopez III’s citizenship "have no basis in law," a lawmaker said on Monday, as the lower chamber of Congress continued hearings on bills seeking a fresh 25-year franchise for the network.
In his sponsorship speech for the measures he filed, Rep. Rufus Rodriguez of Cagayan de Oro City stressed there is enough legal ground to justify Lopez’s capacity to have shares and operate ABS-CBN.
This, as some congressmen and critics of the network questioned Lopez’s citizenship and his capacity to hold shares of the network.
"Mr. Eugenio Gabby Lopez III is a Filipino citizen. He was born to Filipino parents, and under the 1935 Constitution, which was in effect when he was born, he is automatically a Filipino citizen. That is by virtue of the principle of jus sanguinis - the law of ancestry or by blood,” said Rodriguez, a former dean of the College of Law of San Sebastian College.
"He was born in the US in 1952. And under the US Constitution, he is also a US citizen. That is under the principle of jus soli, or the law of the soil," he added.
Rodriguez also cited that both the Department of Justice and the Bureau of Immigration have acknowledged Lopez's Filipino citizenship.
"The Department of Justice and the Bureau of Immigration have both recognized the Philippine citizenship from birth of Mr. Lopez, as contained in Identification Certificate number 00969, dated October 1, 2002," said the solon who once headed the Immigration bureau.
"Therefore, being a Filipino citizen, Mr. Lopez may own part of or participate in the management of the mass media company."
ABS-CBN, which regulators forced off the air last May 5 due to its expired license, has said Lopez is a Filipino following reports saying that he is a US citizen. The Philippine Constitution bars foreigners from owning media companies.
ABS-CBN's executives have also said its issuance of Philippine Depositary Receipts (PDRs) complied with existing laws, which Rodriguez agrees with, noting that it was approved by the Securities and Exchange Commission.
"The PDRs are clearly constitutional and legal, and there is no violation at all in the issuance of ABS-CBN of the PDRs," Rodriguez said.
Deputy Speaker Rodante Marcoleta earlier asked for Lopez to be present in the next hearing, a proposal approved by Rep. Francis Alvarez, chairman of the House Committee on Legislative Franchises.
"There are questions that are personal to him. I don't think the lawyers present today will be able to answer all these questions," Marcoleta said.
"The issue of citizenship is a serious matter. I hope the representatives of ABS-CBN will find in their heart the importance of being able to motivate him, convince him to be present," he added.
ABS-CBN President and CEO Carlo Katigbak reiterated that Lopez is a natural-born Filipino.
"Ang tatay at nanay niya (Lopez) ay parehong Pilipino kaya from birth, automatic na siya'y isang Pilipino rin," he told lawmakers.
(His father and mother are both Filipinos so from birth, it's automatic that he is a Filipino, too.)
Katigbak confirmed that his cousin is also a US citizen and holds a US passport, but that these do not negate his Filipino citizenship.
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