Defensor: Dual citizens should not be media owners
MANILA, Philippines — Amid the issue of ABS-CBN franchise and the citizenship of its chairman emeritus Eugenio “Gabby” Lopez III, Anakalusugan Partylist Rep. Mike Defensor said Thursday that dual citizens should not be allowed to own or manage any media entity in the country.
“Consistent with the national interest and largely for national security reasons, the Constitution requires 100-percent Filipino ownership of media. The Charter also bans dual allegiance by any Filipino,” Defensor said in a statement.
While Defensor conceded that the Constitution does not specifically ban dual citizens from owning or managing a media entity in the country, the lawmaker pointed out the prohibition of dual allegiance.
“Imagine a Filipino who is also a Chinese citizen and who owns or runs a television station or a newspaper at this time when the Philippines and China are engaged in a tug-of-war over the West Philippine Sea. Which side he would take? Which country’s interest would he protect?” Defensor said.
Defensor said it is in situations like these that the requirement for 100-percent Filipino ownership of media and the prohibition on dual allegiance is trying to prevent.
The lawmaker likewise said that the same media ownership provision requires that a cooperative or corporation that owns or runs a media entity should be “wholly-owned” by Filipinos.
“For me, wholly-owned means completely, entirely owned by Filipinos. This means that dual citizens cannot be media owners,” Defensor said.
“In fact, if you stretch the interpretation of that provision, the ban would apply to owning even a single share in a media company,” he added.
What the Constitution says
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.”
This section of the law, however, does not explicitly state if dual citizens are allowed to own media entities.
During Wednesday’s hearing on ABS-CBN’s bid for a 25-year franchise, Lopez maintained that he is a natural-born Filipino since he was born by Filipino parents.
His legal counsel, Ayo Bautista, said that Lopez is a dual citizen since he was born a Filipino citizen by Filipino parents, but was born in the US, which recognizes the legal principle of jus soli, or grant of citizenship if one was born in US soil.
In his interpellation during the hearing, Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Zarate said that dual citizens are also Filipinos under the Constitution.
Zarate said that if lawmakers have questions on why dual citizens are allowed to own a media company, then it is the duty of Congress to craft a law addressing it.
In the same hearing, Lopez said that he would renounce his American citizenship “in a minute” if needed to avoid conflict of interest.
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