Cayetano: Gabby Lopez could have renounced US citizenship or declined ABS-CBN post
MANILA, Philippines — Days after the franchise bid of ABS-CBN was denied, Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano said the network’s chairman emeritus Gabby Lopez could have made a choice: Renounce his American citizenship or not become an official of the company.
During the hybrid hearing of the House committee on good government and public accountability on the implementation of the social amelioration of the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), Cayetano requested that he digress from the topic and deliver a manifestation tackling issues about oligarchy in the country, adding that he would try to “give the bigger picture.”
In his manifestation, Cayetano, just like in his recent speeches and statements, took a jab at ABS-CBN and explained several issues against the network, such as its supposed tax-avoidance schemes and Lopez’ citizenship.
“Mr. Gabby Lopez could have done two things: he could not have accepted being an officer of ABS-CBN, or he could’ve renounced his [American] citizenship before becoming chairman,” Cayetano said.
Cayetano, whose mother is American, likened his situation to Lopez and said that when he decided to do public service and engage in politics, he opted not to vote in the elections in the United States.
The Speaker likewise said if he did not give up his American citizenship, he would have asked President Rodrigo Duterte not to nominate him as secretary of foreign affairs—a post-Cayetano once held.
“Hindi nakikita ng marami na tumutuligsa sa Kongreso, hindi korte ang Kongreso. Kapareho ng Commission on Appointments ang Kongreso. It is the fitness. Titignan mo kung fit ba yung bibigyan mo ng prangkisa, titignan mo yung nag-a-apply,” Cayetano said.
(What the critics of Congress do not see is that Congress is not the Court. It is just like the Commission on Appointments. We look at the fitness of the applicant to be given a franchise.)
“So kung hindi ko gi-nive up ang American citizenship, hindi ako magiging DFA [secretary]. Ako mismo, hindi magpapa-nominate sa ating Pangulo,” he added.
(So if I did not give up my American citizenship, I would not be DFA secretary. I, myself, would ask the President not to nominate me.)
But in the case of ABS-CBN, Cayetano said that there seemed to have no remorse from the side of the network on the issues that were hounding their franchise application.
Cayetano also said that Duterte is not mad at ABS-CBN itself, but rather the abuse of the system in place.
What happened in the hearings?
In the hearings, Lopez himself said that he is a natural-born Filipino since his parents are Filipino citizens. But since he was born in the United States, which recognizes the legal principle of jus soli or grant of citizenship if one was born in US soil, he is also an American citizen and, in effect, became a dual citizen.
Further, no less than the Department of Justice (DOJ) attested that Lopez is a Filipino citizen.
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 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.
More issues vs ABS-CBN
In his manifestation, Cayetano also raised issues that he has previously discussed in his earlier speeches and statements, such as the supposed political partisanship of the network.
Cayetano once again denied the statements made by Vice President Leni Robredo and Senator Grace Poe that the denial of ABS-CBN’s franchise before the House committee on legislative franchises would have a “chilling effect” on journalists and freedom of the press.
“In other words, maraming nakakalusot kasi maraming nagpapalusot, dahil pumapayag tayo na makalusot. The statement of VP Leni Robredo and Sen Grace Poe proves without a doubt that there are oligarchs and they are alive and kicking,” Cayetano said.
“To say that the ABS-CBN will have a chilling effect on journalists, on freedom of the press. E bakit ang Channel 5 on Channel 7, walang problema sa pagpasa ng prangkisa? In my case, mas maraming matinding tuligsa sa akin na nanggagaling sa DZBB kaysa sa DZMM,” he added.
DZBB is GMA-7’s AM radio station, while DZMM is ABS-CBN’s AM radio station.
(They say that the ABS-CBN will have a chilling effect on journalists, on freedom of the press. But why did Channel 5 and Channel 7 not have a problem with their franchise? In my case, I have more critics in DZBB than in DZMM.)
The Speaker said that there is a “line between negative reporting and there’s a line between being kingmaker and kingslayer.”
“Sa print at sa social media, bahala kayo kasi karapatan niyo yan. Pero sa radio at TV, especially during times of election, kasama sa election code yan at kasama yan sa prangkisa nyo, you cannot be partisan. You can hit very hard but you cannot be a partisan,” Cayetano said.
(In print and social media, you have a right. But with radio and TV, especially during times of election, it is stated in the election code and your franchise that you cannot be partisan. You can hit very hard but you cannot be partisan.)
Cayetano also opened up the issue on the supposed tax avoidance schemes of ABS-CBN as he compared the taxes paid by the network to that of its rival GMA-7.
“GMA-7 mas maliit ang kita pero ang binayad P3 billion in three years. Ang ABS-CBN, mas malaki ang kinita pero ang binayad P600 million,” Cayetano said.
(GMA-7 has less income but paid P3 billion in three years. ABS-CBN earned more but only paid P600 million.)
“Tingnan nyo gano kalaki nawala sa gobyerno at ang sasabihin nyo lang sa akin, legal yun? Napakainutil naman natin na Kongreso kung lahat ng palusot na sasabihin ay legal yun. Not everything legal is moral. That’s why you have a difference between legal and public policy,” he added.
(Look at how much the government lost and you will tell me that it is legal? Congress would be so stupid if all the reasoning would just be ‘it’s legal’. Not everything legal is moral. That’s why you have a difference between legal and public policy.)
To recall, during the hearings on ABS-CBN’s franchise application, the BIR said the network has no tax default as it has been “regularly” paying taxes for the past years.
BIR Assistant Commissioner Manuel Mapoy said that the broadcasting company has paid over P15.3 billion in taxes from 2016 to 2019.
Ricardo Tan, ABS-CBN Group chief financial officer, also said that ABS-CBN as a group paid in 2018 a total of P5.2 billion in various taxes, of which P465 million was income tax. [ac]
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