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Questions on dual citizens’ ownership of mass media firms surface at House hearing

/ 02:40 PM June 03, 2020

MANILA, Philippines — As the citizenship of ABS-CBN chairman emeritus Eugenio “Gabby” Lopez III is questioned amid the network’s bid for a 25-year franchise, questions on whether or not dual citizens should be allowed to own mass media companies in the country surfaced.

Ako Bicol Rep. Alfredo Garbin raised this question during his interpellation at the joint hearing of the House committee on legislative franchises and the committee on good government and public accountability on ABS-CBN’s franchise.

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Under Article XVI, Section 11 of the 1987 Constitution, “the ownership and management of mass media shall be limited to citizens of the Philippines, or to corporations, cooperatives or associations, wholly-owned and managed by such citizens.”

“Undeniably Gabby Lopez is a natural-born citizen but he’s also an American citizen by virtue of a jus soli principle applied in American law. Ang tanong ho (The question is), whether a dual citizen can own a mass media company,” said Garbin.

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In his interpellation, Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Zarate said that dual citizens are also Filipinos under the Constitution.

Thus, in the case of Gabby Lopez, Zarate said he is allowed to take part in the operations of ABS-CBN.

“Kung mayroon man tayong question bakit ang dual citizen ay nagmamay-ari ng isang media company na under sa ating Constitution ay sinabi doon Filipino citizen, probably that’s the duty of this Congress—to craft a law if we want to,” Zarate said.

(If we have questions on why dual citizens are allowed to own a media company despite being stated in the Constitution that they are Filipinos, probably that’s the duty of this Congress to craft a law if we want to.)

“But habang ito ang kaayusan na umiiral ngayon na walang distinction na sinasabi ang ating Saligang Batas at pinapayagan ang dual citizenship lalo’t higit siya ay natural-born Filipino…at kung walang pagdududa na siya ay natural-born Filipino, hindi natin pwedeng sabihin na bawal habang walang batas na nagbabawal,” the lawmaker added.

(But while this is what is in place right now and there is no distinction in the Constitution and dual citizenship is allowed, especially for natural-born Filipinos… and if there is no doubt that he is a natural-born Filipino, then we cannot say they are not allowed because there is no law that prohibits them.)

50-50 citizenship?

A roaming topic of conversation during the hearing was the definition of dual citizenship. Is it 50-50?

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Garbin, who is a lawyer by profession, told INQUIRER.net in a phone interview that it is not the case.

“There is no such thing as 50-50. There is no such thing as 50 percent American, 50 percent Filipino,” Garbin said.

Further, Garbin said that under the Dual Citizenship Law, those who re-acquired their Philippine citizenship shall have the right to vote in a national election, shall have the right to move land and property in the Philippines, and engage in business as a Filipino.

“These are also dual citizens under the Dual Citizenship Act. If these benefits are given to those who re-acquired their Filipino citizenship—meaning they’ve lost their citizenship—then how much more to a natural-born citizen who never lost his or her citizenship such as Gabby Lopez?” Garbin said.

Cagayan de Oro City 2nd District Rep. Rufus Rodriguez earlier told INQUIRER.net that Lopez is a dual citizen of the Philippines and The United States.

Rodriguez explained that since Lopez was born in the United States in 1952, he is an American citizen by virtue of jus soli citizenship—or by virtue of birth on the soil—which is used there.

Further, Rodriguez said that Lopez was born by Filipino parents, making him a Filipino under the jus sanguinis citizenship—or by virtue of blood—under the 1935 Constitution, which was the Philippine law in place during Lopez’s birth.

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TAGS: ABS-CBN, ABS-CBN franchise, ABS-CBN shutdown, Gabby Lopez
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