File photo shows employees and supporters lighting candles at the gate as the ABS-CBN Corporation office in Quezon City shines the network's colors.
The STAR/Miguel de Guzman
ABS-CBN's Lopez asserts Philippine citizenship at House hearing
(Philstar.com) - June 3, 2020 - 12:51pm

MANILA, Philippines — ABS-CBN chairman emeritus Gabby Lopez, by virtue of his recognition from the justice department and its immigration bureau, holds dual citizenship that does not negate his Filipino citizenship from birth, Lopez and his lawyer argued Wednesday.

The chairman emeritus' citizenship was among the numerous allegations recycled by Rep. Rodante Marcoleta (Sagip Party-list) at an earlier House hearing, who cast doubt over whether or not his American citizenship allowed him to own mass media entities in the Philippines. 

Attending the hearing via Zoom, Lopez, who has dual citizen status, also pointed to his company's track record of service to Filipinos. 

"I stand by my record over the last 35 years. I have been committed to the people of this country. It is a trust that has been passed on to me by my father and by his father before him," he said. 

"Because I was not born in the Philippines, I did not have a Filipino birth certificate. So it behooved me to have recognition by the [Department of Justice] and [Bureau of Immigration] for whatever legal purposes I may use of that recognition," he added.

Lopez's citizenship, along with a litany of recycled issues, had already been addressed by government agencies—including the labor department, the Bureau of Internal Revenue, and the Securities and Exchange Commission—at an earlier Senate hearing.

READ: Allegations against ABS-CBN recycled anew at House hearing | ABS-CBN abides by tax, labor and corporate laws — gov't

Under the nation's charter, foreigners are prohibited from owning and managing media entities. 

Citing a Supreme Court ruling and Constitutional Commission member Blas Ople, Mario Bautista, the lawyer of Lopez, argued both that citizenship can only be lost if it is explicitly renounced, and that dual allegiance does not equate to dual citizenship. 

"Without any overt act or choice, Mr. Lopez was automatically a Filipino citizen and an American citizen," he said.

In an earlier statement sent to Philstar.com, the TV network also argued that Lopez “was born to Filipino parents—under the 1935 Constitution that was in effect when he was born— which automatically makes him a Filipino citizen.”

Rep. Boying Remulla (Cavite 7th District), Senior Deputy Majority Leader, went as far as asking if Lopez was "100% Filipino or 100% American or 50% Filipino or 50% American."

Dual, concurrent citizenship means that a citizen is 100% Filipino and 100% a foreign citizen. 

Born to Filipino parents in the United States, Lopez acknowledged that he had traveled the world with a US passport and even voted in the 2016 US elections. All citizens born in the United States are automatically given American citizenship, which led to the chairman emeritus to apply for recognition of his Philippine citizenship in 2001.

Lopez said that he had never applied for naturalization in another country, nor taken another country's pledge of allegiance. 

"All my life I have considered myself a Filipino citizen. I grew up in the Philippines, [and we] are 7 generations of Lopezes living in the Philippines," he said.

"I always tell our employees here at ABS-CBN: it is not just a job; it is a calling. So please, if you are going to go beyond the technicality and look at my allegiance, please look at my record in the past 35 years," he added. — Franco Luna 

ABS-CBN FRANCHISE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
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