Mas mabigat pa kaysa sa paglabag ng mga pangkaraniwang batas ay ang pagyurak sa Saligang Batas (Constitution). Photo: 2016 Presidential debates, Lopez in front, Duterte at the back, other candidates -Binay, Santiago RIP, TraPOE and Roxas
ABS-CBN chair defied Charter
(First of two parts)
ABS-CBN Broadcasting Corp. was, for decades, headed by an American citizen, records in the Bureau of Immigration (BI) show, a clear violation of the constitutional statute that media companies must be 100-percent Filipino-owned.
Documents obtained by The Manila Times from an unimpeachable source revealed that ABS-CBN Chairman Emeritus Eugenio “Gabby” Lopez 3rd has been using a United States passport during his travels from Jan. 10, 1995 until Jan. 6, 2020.
Lopez’s 12-page list of travel records shows that he has been using a US passport in most of his travels, including when he was chairman of ABS-CBN.
The Constitution’s Article XVI, Section 11 (1) states: “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.”
Lopez was appointed chairman and chief executive officer of the broadcast network in 1996, when it was handed back to the Lopezes by President Corazon Aquino in 1986. He started as a director, of finance, but only a year later he was appointed general manager.
That means technically, while he was climbing the ABS-CBN corporate ladder, he was a US citizen because the country’s Dual Citizenship Law was passed only in 2004.
That law allows natural-born Filipinos who acquired citizenship in another country to become Philippine citizens.
Even if Lopez was able to acquire Filipino citizenship, records show that from 1986 up to the time he applied for Filipino citizenship, Lopez was a passport-carrying American citizen.
As late as last January 2, Lopez used his US passport — Number 506179018 — during a special flight to Haneda, Japan.
He had his Philippine passport on January 6 when he flew in Vista Jet Flight VJT479D and switched to his US passport during the same flight.
Lopez was technically still an American citizen when he assumed the ABS-CBN chairmanship in 1996.
From Jan. 10, 1995 up to Dec. 8, 2002 he was using US Passport Number 051136203.
It became Passport Number 700820102 after it was renewed. In 2005, the passport was renewed again to 71186505, which he used until Sept. 20, 2010.
Another renewal changed the number to 452132118, which he used until Feb. 27, 2015. Lopez’s present passport is number 506179018.
The first time he used his Philippine passport was on March 16, 2003. He presented Philippine Passport Number ZZ095942 for Cathay Pacific Airline flight CX 918. On a December 17, 2018 trip to San Francisco, California, Lopez presented a US passport. He was also traveling as an American citizen on Jan. 14, 2019 to Haneda, Japan; Jan. 23, 2019 to Denpasar, Indonesia; April 14, 2019 to Haneda; May 15, 2019 to San Francisco, USA; May 28, 2019 to San Francisco, USA; June 3, 2019 to Los Angeles, USA; July 26, 2019 to San Francisco, USA; Oct. 10, 2019 to San Francisco USA; and Nov. 13, 2019 to Dubai, United Arab Emirates, and Istanbul, Turkey.
Even after he was granted dual citizenship, records show that Lopez decided to hang on to his US passport.
Yet, when ABS-CBN President and CEO Karlo Katigbak testified before the Senate, he insisted Lopez is a Filipino citizen because he has a Philippine passport and his father, Eugenio Lopez Jr., was a Filipino.
The Manila Times’ text and voice queries to Katigbak went unanswered.
The Manila Times tried to get a reaction from Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra as to whether a Filipino with dual citizenship can head a media company.
Guevarra declined to comment since ABS-CBN filed a petition before the Supreme Court to fight the closure order issued by the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC).
The case will be raffled today, Monday.
A quo warranto petition was earlier filed by Solicitor General Jose Calida against ABS CBN contesting the legality of the network’s ownership. There is also the petition of lawyer Larry Gadon who called on the Supreme Court to stop House Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano and NTC Commissioner Gamaliel Cordoba from implementing the notice for an extension of the ABS-CBN franchise.
Amid the finger-pointing on the closure of ABS-CBN Corp., Vice President Maria Leonor “Leni” Robredo said Congress should have acted upon the network’s franchise when it had the time.
“Pagkatapos ng shutdown, noong marami nagreact, nagtuturuan na. Noong hindi pa sina-shut down mayroong mga ano ito, may mga threats na hindi na kayo makakarenew, tapos ngayon nagtuturuan kung sino iyong behind it. Pero noong panahon na may oras pa, iyong tanong nga: Bakit hindi inasikaso (After the shutdown, when there had been many reactions, there’s finger-pointing. When it had yet to shutdown, there had been threats that it would not be renewed, and now, there’s finger-pointing on who’s behind it. But when there was still time, the question is: why was it not acted upon)?” Robredo said over her weekly radio show.
Robredo said the franchise renewal bills had been pending in the House since 2014 until the 25-year franchise expired last May 4.
Robredo stressed that an action should have been made, whether it had been for a renewal or disapproval if there had been violations that could have presented a clear path for the network and prevented a dilemma.
“If there really had been a lot of violations, if we may say for example, that the license cannot be renewed, then it should have been disapproved. Disapproved so that the next recourse would be clear,” she said in Filipino.
Robredo, however, pointed out that the network could only respond to the allegations if a hearing had been called.
Albay First District Rep. Edcel Lagman reiterated that the House leadership “deprived ABS-CBN of its authority to operate by inordinately stalling the network’s franchise renewal and allowing it to expire.”
Lagman said “even the Supreme Court will have difficulty in finding legal anchorage for issuing a temporary restraining order against NTC since the law is clear under Republic Act 7925 or the ‘Public Telecommunications Policy Act’ that: ‘No person shall commence or conduct the business of being a public telecommunications entity without first obtaining a franchise.’”
“The proverbial key to heaven for ABS-CBN is with Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano,” he said.
Cayetano had said that Congress would hold franchise hearings that are “fair, impartial, thorough, and comprehensive.”
As of Sunday, no schedule has been set for the 12 franchise renewal measures pending with the Committee on Legislative Franchise.
WITH DIVINA NOVA JOY DELA CRUZ