(June 3, 2020) – A businessman who controls the country’s largest broadcast network on Wednesday said he is willing to renounce his dual citizenship as an American to end conflict over the legislative franchise of the giant radio-and-TV commercial network.
Appearing at a lower house inquiry on ABS-CBN 25-year legislative franchise renewal, Eugenio “Gabby” Lopez denied allegations he violated the country’s laws for operating a media company as a foreign citizen.
“It was never something that I felt was an issue in terms of any of my action,” Lopez, chairman emeritus of multi-billion-peso broadcast network, told lawmakers. “If it came down to conflict of interest, I would give up my U.S. citizenship in a minute.”
Based on the Philippines’ 1987 constitution, foreign citizens are prohibited from owning mass media companies.
Lopez’ citizenship was among issues raised by lawmakers blocking the renewal of ABS-CBN’s franchise. Lopez was born in the US to both Filipino parents and is a natural born US citizen.
However, he is also a Filipino citizen because his mother was a Filipino under the 1935 constitution at that time he was born. There had been two revisions in the constitution in 1973 and 1987.
He served as chairman and CEO of ABS-CBN Corp. from 1996 up until his retirement in 2012.
“Dahil siya po ay may magulang both father and mother na Filipino citizens kaya sa pagkapanganak siya ay Filipino citizen,” said Justice Undersecretary Emmeline Aglipay-Villar. “At tama rin po na dahil siya ay pinanganak sa US ay siya rin po ay isang American citizen.”
Lopez admitted to members of Congress that he has passports both from the Philippines and the U.S.
Villar, however, said Lopez using an American passport to travel does not mean that he has lost his Filipino citizenship. At the same time, the absence of a Philippine passport does not mean that he is not a Filipino.
Lopez also denied that he has pledged an allegiance to US flag, when quizzed by Rep. Claudine Bautista who sought the clarification with the oath being recited in schools.
Lopez explained he received his primary education in the Philippines and went to college in America, where the pledge was no longer being recited.
Lopez’s appearance in the congressional hearing is part of the ongoing discussions in the House on alleged violations against the network, which had been off the air for weeks now after it was served a closure order.
ABS-CBN’s 25-year legislative franchise lapsed on May 4, despite seeking renewal years ahead of the expiration date and many bills on the matter left pending in the House.
The shutdown marked only the second time for ABS-CBN, next to way back during the Martial Law after the Marcos dictatorship seized ownership of the network.
ABS-CBN has been losing 30 million pesos a day in revenues, putting on hold about 11,000 jobs.
The current ABS-CBN’s CEO and President Carlo Katigbak had said they will soon be forced to release a list of employees affected by a retrenchment program if the network is not back on air by August. (Christian de Lano Deiparine/MM)
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