ABS-CBN chair emeritus Gabby Lopez asked to recite PH 'patriotic oath' in franchise hearing

Christian V. Esguerra, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jun 08 2020 05:28 PM | Updated as of Jun 09 2020 03:32 PM

ABS-CBN chair emeritus Gabby Lopez asked to recite PH 'patriotic oath' in franchise hearing 1
ABS-CBN Chairman emeritus Eugenio "Gabby" Lopez III at the ABS-CBN Annual Stakeholders' Meeting in Quezon City on April 25, 2019. Mark Demayo, ABS-CBN News

MANILA (UPDATE) --Eugenio "Gabby" Lopez III was asked to recite the Philippine "Patriotic Oath" as congressmen continued to pounce Monday on his dual citizenship, alleging that that it raised a conflict of interest when he headed shuttered media network ABS-CBN.

But the network's legal counsel, Mario Bautista, pointed out that the Constitution requires only 100-percent Filipino ownership in mass media, and does not bar dual citizens like ABS-CBN's chairman emeritus.

Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Zarate, a lawyer, said: "Ang bawal ay dual allegiance pero 'di pinagbabawal ang dual citizenship."

(What the constitution prohibits is dual allegiance, not dual citizenship.)

Lopez told the joint committee hearing on ABS-CBN's application for a new broadcast franchise that his dual citizenship was "merely a technical issue."

"In terms of substance, in terms of allegiance, I am 100-percent Filipino," said Lopez, who was asked to prove his Philippine allegiance by reciting the first line of the "Patriotic Oath."

Lopez cited the line, "Iniibig ko ang Pilipinas," (I love the Philippines). But Deputy Speaker Rodante Marcoleta said Lopez had been coached by his lawyer.

Marcoleta, who's leading the charge in the House to deny ABS-CBN a new franchise, said Lopez was still covered by the foreign ownership restriction in mass media owing to his American citizenship.

Lopez was also asked which side he would take in the "remote possibility" that the Philippines went to war against the United States.

"I am a Filipino. I will take the side of the Philippines," he said.

Lopez urged legislators not to pass judgment on his citizenship and allegiance without looking at his record at ABS-CBN.

"It is very clear what my actions have been," he said.

"There is no question that if there's a conflict of interest between my being a Filipino and my being an American, time and again, I have shown that my actions always favored the Filipino."

Critics of ABS-CBN have cited Lopez's dual citizenship as among the reasons Congress should deny it another 25-year franchise.

The National Telecommunications Commissions shut down the network last May 5, the day after its operating franchise expired despite pending applications in Congress since 2014.

Lopez described his American citizenship as an "accident" having been born in the United States in 1952. But he's also a Filipino citizen having been born to Filipino parents.

"My own actions speak for themselves over the last 35 years. I have been a Filipino and I am proud to be a Filipino. All you have to do is look at my record," he said.

'IN THOUGHT WORD AND DEED'

At the start of Monday's hearing, Lopez described himself as a Filipino "in thought, word and deed."

He said he was forced to stay in the US because of martial law, and completed his college and postgraduate degrees there. 

"Other than that, I have lived my whole life in the Philippines... In thought, in word and deed, I am po a Filipino citizen," he said.

Lopez said he regularly paid "all the taxes that are due in the Philippines." The US gets income tax from Lopez "only after all the taxes in the Philippines is paid," he said. 

The immigration bureau in Manila requires Lopez to bring both his US and Philippine passports when he travels. 

Lopez does not need a visa when he travels to Europe with a US passport and in member-countries of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations with his Philippine passport.