MANILA—ABS-CBN chairman emeritus Eugenio “Gabby” Lopez III is a natural-born Filipino who can own and participate in the management of a mass media company, a number of congressmen said as hearings resumed Wednesday on the shuttered broadcast network’s application for a new operating franchise.
But Rep. Alfredo Garbin asked whether dual citizens like Lopez could own a mass media company, which requires strict 100-percent Filipino ownership under the constitution.
Rep. Carlos Zarate said questions on whether dual citizens owning such companies would not violate the restriction could be settled by Congress by crafting a law.
“Di natin pwedeng sabihin na bawal habang walang batas na nagbabawal,” he told the joint hearing by the committees on legislative franchises and good government.
ABS-CBN legal counsel Mario Bautista said the constitution did not bar dual citizens from mass media ownership. He said the Securities and Exchange Commission would not have cleared Lopez if his citizenship status violated the law.
Lopez, who was born to Filipino parents in 1952 in the United States, said he applied for “recognition” as a Filipino citizen in 2001 only to avail of a Philippine passport.
He repeatedly told congressmen that he never applied for naturalization, made an oath of allegiance to another country, or made any expressed renunciation of his Filipino citizenship.
“Mr. Lopez from the very, very beginning by birth is a Filipino,” said Rep. Rufus Rodriguez, a former immigration commissioner and a law school dean.
“Being a Filipino, Mr. Lopez may own a part of and also participate in the management of a mass media company.”
Responding to Rep. Edcel Lagman, Bautista said the certificate of recognition issued to Lopez was merely a confirmation that he is a natural-born Filipino citizen.
Lagman described questions on Lopez’s citizenship as a “non-issue because he is undeniably a natural-born Filipino citizen."
“No amount of interpellation would change this overriding and unalterable fact,” he said.