This undated photo shows ABS-CBN chairman emeritus Gabby Lopez.
The STAR/file
DOJ: Gabby Lopez a Filipino citizen since birth
Kristine Joy Patag ( - June 3, 2020 - 3:19pm

MANILA, Philippines — Facts available to the Department of Justice bear out that ABS-CBN chairman emeritus Gabby Lopez has been a Filipino citizen from birth, an official said at a House hearing on Wednesday.

Lopez was invited to attend House of Representatives’ Committees on Legislative Franchise and Good Government and Public Accountability's hearing of ABS-CBN franchise bills to shed light on issues “personal” to him, including on his citizenship.

Foreign ownership, through Lopez and the use of Philippine Depositary Receipts, is one of the allegations hurled at the media giant. The Constitution holds that foreigners are prohibited from owning and managing mass media, like ABS-CBN.

EXPLAINER: ABS-CBN's Philippine Depositary Receipt holders not owners, lawyer says | Point by point: ABS-CBN answers Solgen Calida's quo warranto petition

ABS-CBN stated on May 11 that Lopez is a Filipino citizen born to Filipino parents, but questions on his American citizenship and possession of a US passport were discussed at the House hearing anyway.

Justice Undersecretary Emmeline Aglipay-Villar, a resource person invited to the hearing, told lawmakers, in Filipino, that “because he [Lopez] has parents, both father and mother who are both Filipino citizens, that is why from his birth, he is a Filipino citizen.”

Aglipay-Villar explained that Lopez is also an American citizen since he was born in the United States. “By birth, both Filipino and American citizen.”

The Bureau of Immigration, which an attached agency of the DOJ, says on its website that Filipinos are citizens at birth due to "Jus sanguinis (right of blood), which is the legal principle that, at birth, an individual acquires the nationality of [their] natural parents."

"The Philippine adheres to this principle," BI says.

Aglipay-Villar told lawmakers that Lopez's "usage of his American passport is not reason to lose his Filipino citizenship and his non-possession of a Filipino passport is also not a reason that he is not a Filipino."

Aglipay-Villar pointed out that this principle was enshrined in the 1935 Constitution that was in effect when Lopez was born on 1952.

“Based on facts available to DOJ, there is no evidence presenting that [Lopez] became a naturalized citizen and he renounced his Filipino citizenship. His Filipino citizenship remains since birth,” she added.

Lopez told members of the House that he has a Philippine and a US passport. He brings both when he travels.

Lopez asserts Filipino citizenship in hearing

Earlier in the hearing, Lopez and ABS-CBN general counsel Mario Bautista stressed that the ABS-CBN chairman emeritus is a dual citizen.

“Mr. Gabby Lopez’s dual citizenship is an automatic legal consequence because he was born from Filipino [parents]. He was born in America, and we know that if you are born in US territory, you are an American citizen,” Bautista explained in Filipino.

For his part, Lopez said: “I am first and foremost a Filipino, I will live and die in the Philippines. I know in my heart that I am a Filipino. All my actions in the last 35 years I’ve been associated with ABS-CBN has been in the service of the Filipino.”

ABS-CBN is seeking the grant of franchise from the Congress. The media giant's free and regional channels and several radio stations have been closed since May 5, in compliance with the National Telecommunications Commission's Cease and Desist Order, which the network is assailing at a pending petition before the Supreme Court.

The SC has yet to take another action on their petition after it ordered the NTC, Senate and House to answer ABS-CBN's petition last week.

The company said it loses about P30 million to P35 million for each day it is off air.

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