MANILA — A 2001 document from the Department of Justice (DOJ) unearthed to question ABS-CBN chairman emeritus Eugenio "Gabby" Lopez III's legal standing to own mass media in the Philippines was a recognition of his existing Filipino citizenship, his legal counsel said in a congressional inquiry Wednesday.
Several lawmakers quizzed Lopez on his allegiance to the Philippines due to his dual citizenship as a Filipino and American. The Philippine Constitution prohibits foreigners from owning media companies.
Lopez in 2001 requested the Bureau of Immigration through the DOJ to be recognized as Filipino.
"Nakalagay po sa remedy for filing a recognition by way of a letter request is available to dual citizens gaya po ni Mr. Lopez to secure acknowledgement from the Philippine government of his Philippine citizenship status from birth for any legal purpose it may serve," Lopez's lawyer Mario "Ayo" Bautista told lawmakers.
According to Bautista, there was no way a 2-page request letter can grant any individual a Filipino citizenship, as doing so can only be done through birth or naturalization.
"Maliwanag po na ang kaniyang petition na letter request ay merely for recognition... Ang letter ay 2 pahina lang... Two pages lang po 'yun kaya paano po natin masasabi na he acquired Filipino citizenship by way of a 2-page letter?" Bautista said.
"Ito pong petition for recognition ay hindi po naturalization. Ang naturalization ay ginagawa n'yo through legal act. Kayo pong mga congressmen alam niyo po ito. Minsan po may mga basketball player na dayuhan nina-naturalize niyo," he added.
Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman seconded Bautista's legal position.
"To make a long story short, that certificate of recognition issued to Lopez is a confirmation that he is a natural born citizen," Lagman said.
Watch a livestreaming of the proceedings here: