MANILA - ABS-CBN chairman emeritus Eugenio "Gabby" Lopez III is qualified to own and manage a media company in the country, former Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile said Sunday.
The citizenship of Lopez, who was born to Filipino parents in the United States, is a "weak ground" to deny or extend the network's franchise, he added.
"I personally believe that Gabby Lopez is qualified to own and managed (sic) a mass media broadcast business in our country," Enrile said in a Facebook post a day before the House of Representatives resumes its inquiry into ABS-CBN's franchise.
"... and that ABS-CBN Corporation is not disqualified because of him to engaged (sic) in mass media broadcast business under a provision of our Constitution which says - 'The ownership and management of mass media shall be limited to citizens of the Philippines...'"
Lopez acquired his Philippine and US citizenships at birth by virtue of jus sanguinis (law of ethnicity) and jus soli (law of the soil), Enrile said.
"Gabby Lopez (and all Filipinos similarly situated like him) was never required under our Constitution to elect and choose which of his two citizenship he would retain or follow," Enrile said.
"Both attached to him at birth without any choice or act on his part. From the view point of US law, he is a natural born American. At the same time, from the view point of Philippine law, he is a natural born Filipino."
Lawmakers opposed to the granting of a new 25-year franchise to ABS-CBN claim that since Lopez is also an American citizen, his management of the company as well as being one of its shareholders violate the Constitution.
The Justice department and Securities and Exchange Commission said in the hearing last week that dual citizens are considered 100 percent Filipinos, with the former saying that as such, they are entitled to businesses limited by the Constitution to Filipino citizens.
ABS-CBN was forced off the air on May 5 on orders of the National Telecommunications Commission, citing the expiry of its previous franchise on May 4. The NTC earlier committed to grant the network a provisional authority to operate while Congress deliberates on several bills seeking to give ABS-CBN a new franchise.
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