Gabby Lopez invited to next House hearing on ABS-CBN to shed light on his citizenship

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, June 1) — The House of Representatives invited ABS-CBN chairman emeritus Eugenio "Gabby" Lopez III to attend the next committee hearing surrounding the broadcast giant's supposed franchise violations, including allegations about his foreign citizenship.

During the joint hearing of the House legislative franchises committee and the committee on good government and public accountability on Monday, Deputy Speaker Rodante Marcoleta called on Lopez to attend the next deliberation "as a matter of courtesy."

Allegations on Lopez' citizenship is being tied to other supposed violations of the network, including media ownership rules under the 1987 Constitution.

Marcoleta previously said that the ABS-CBN violated the Constitution, which requires full Filipino ownership and management of media networks.

"There are questions that are personal to him and I don’t think the lawyers present today will be able to answer these questions, particularly those questions that are personal to him," said Marcoleta. "I would not know how to deal with this if he’s not present. I’d like to believe that he should be, as a matter of courtesy to this House."

Legislative franchises panel chair Franz Alvarez of Palawan then ordered the committee secretariat to officially invite Lopez to the hearing.

Meanwhile, ABS-CBN president and CEO Carlo Katigbak defended Lopez anew, following reports that the latter only managed to secure his Filipino citizenship in 2002.

"Ang tatay at nanay niya (Lopez) ay parehong Pilipino kaya from birth, automatic na siya'y isang Pilipino rin," Katigbak said.

[Translation: Lopez's father and mother are both Filipinos by birth, so it is automatic that he is also a Filipino.]

Katigbak added that even if Lopez owned a US passport because he was born in Boston in 1952, this does not negate his Filipino citizenship, citing a Bureau of Immigration order in 2001.

Cagayan de Oro Rep. Rufus Rodriguez, then-Immigration commissioner, noted that Lopez "is a Filipino citizen from the beginning" under the 1935 Constitution. He added that the Department of Justice and the Bureau of Immigration also recognized the Philippine citizenship of Lopez by paper.

Rodriguez added: "Since he (Lopez) was born in the United States in 1952, he was, under US law, an American citizen by virtue of his birth on American soil. He was also a Filipino, since his parents were both Filipinos."

Rodriguez also debunked claims on the network's supposed violation involving the issuance of Philippine Depositary Receipts or PDRs to foreign investors.

"The PDRs are clearly constitutional and legal, and there is no violation at all in the issuance of the PDRs," said the lawmaker, noting that this was approved by the Securities and Exchange Commission.

The next House hearing on the issue is scheduled at 9:30 a.m. on Wednesday, June 3.