Gabby Lopez is a Filipino – DOJ

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ABS-CBN chairman emeritus Gabby Lopez (FILE PHOTO)

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, June 3) – The Department of Justice has settled the debate: ABS-CBN chairman emeritus Eugenio "Gabby" Lopez III is a Filipino citizen.

Justice Undersecretary Emmeline Aglipay-Villar told members of the House of Representatives on Wednesday that Lopez – who once served as chairman and chief executive officer of his family's network – is Filipino by birth, being born to Filipino parents.

Aglipay-Villar explained that Lopez holds dual citizenship. The 1935 Philippine Constitution meant that having Filipino parents automatically made him Filipino, while being born in Boston, Massachusetts also made him an American citizen by virtue of foreign law.

She added that his status in the Philippines is not affected by his decision to use an American passport to travel abroad, with Lopez only seeking for a corresponding local travel document in 2001.

"Siya po ay merong magulang – both father and mother – na Filipino citizen. Kaya po sa kanyang pagkapanganak, siya ay Filipino citizen... Ang paggamit ng kanyang US passport ay hindi po dahilan para mawala ang kanyang Filipino citizenship, at ang hindi naman niya pagkakaroon ng Philippine passport ay hindi rin isang dahilan na hindi siya maging Pilipino," Aglipay-Villar said in response to Sagip Party-List Rep. Rodante Marcoleta, who had been questioning Lopez's citizenship.

"Pagdating sa citizenship, hindi po issue na may pasaporte ng ibang bansa," she added.

[Translation: He has parents – both father and mother – who are Filipino citizens that's why from birth, he is a Filipino citizen... Using a US passport does not remove his Filipino citizenship, and not having a Philippine passport is also not a reason for him not be a Filipino. When it comes to citizenship, it is not an issue if a person has a passport issued by another country.]

RELATED: ABS-CBN: Gabby Lopez a Filipino citizen, holds PH passport

Lopez: I did not swear allegiance to the US

Lopez also noted that he neither swore allegiance to the United States, nor renounced his Filipino citizenship.

"I only went to college and (took) my Masters in America. When you go to college in America, it does not ask you to make an oath of allegiance," Lopez told lawmakers.

He said he had not considered his dual citizenship as an issue in terms of his actions while running the broadcast giant.

"It was never something that I felt was an issue in terms of any of my actions," Lopez said. "If it came down to conflict of interest, I will give up my US citizenship in a minute."

Members of the House Committee on Legislative Franchises and the Committee on Good Government and Public Accountability staged a joint inquiry to tackle supposed violations of ABS-CBN's franchise terms, which has expired May 4. Solons pondered on Lopez's citizenship for three hours to see if it was in conflict with a Constitutional provision that requires all mass media companies in the country to be owned by a Filipino.

Repeated questions from panel members like Cavite Rep. Jesus Crispin "Boying" Remulla, Anakalusugan Rep. Michael Defensor, Cagayan de Oro Rep. Rufus Rodriguez, and Manila Rep. Edward Maceda all sought to establish Lopez's identity. 

RELATED: Can one with a duel citizenship run a PH mass media company?

Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman, meanwhile, said existing facts establish that Lopez is a natural-born Filipino. "No amount of interpellations would change this overriding and unalterable fact," he told fellow lawmakers.

The network's fate remains in limbo as its TV and radio broadcasts have been off the air for nearly a month now, following a surprise cease and desist order from the National Telecommunications Commission issued a day after its franchise lapsed. Numerous bills pending in Congress seek to grant ABS-CBN another 25-year lease, but measures remain pending before the House days away from a two-month legislative break.

READ: House panel cites overwhelming support for ABS-CBN franchise renewal

ABS-CBN corporate lawyer Mario Bautista refuted allegations that the company executive was naturalized by way of the two-page letter, referring to issues raised regarding Lopez's petition granted by the Department of Justice in 2001 to recognize his Filipino citizenship.

"Maliwanag ito na ang letter request for recognition ni Mr. Gabby Lopez ay hindi niya na-acquire ang kanyang Filipino citizenship through that [It is clear from Mr. Gabby Lopez's letter request for recognition that he did not acquire Filipino citizenship through that]. It was merely a recognition of his existing Filipino citizenship," he said during the hearing.

Aglipay-Villar also added that the certificate is merely "confirmatory" given the fact that Lopez is a Filipino citizen since birth.

The House panel will resume deliberations on ABS-CBN's franchise on Monday, June 8.

CNN Philippines' Glee Jalea contributed to this report.