ABS-CBN franchise remains in limbo

Rodante Marcoleta & Eugenio “Gabby” Lopez III
Deputy Speaker and Sagip party-list Rep. Rodante Marcoleta asks ABS-CBN chairman emeritus, Eugenio “Gabby” Lopez III to recite the ‘Panatang Makabayan.’ Screen grab from Facebook

THE franchise of ABS-CBN Broadcasting Corporation remained in limbo as lawmakers delved deeper into the dual citizenship of its chairman emeritus, Eugenio “Gabby” Lopez III during the continuation of the joint hearing by the House committees on legislative franchises and ib good government and public accountability.

The two House panels, chaired by Representatives Franz Alvarez of Palawan and Jose Antonio Sy-Alvarado of Bulacan, concluded the fourth joint hearing last Monday without deciding on the issue of whether ABS-CBN should be granted a new franchise so it could resume its broadcast operations.

A heated exchange broke out between House Deputy Speaker and Sagip party-list Rep. Rodante Marcoleta and House Deputy Minority Leader and Bayan Muna party-list Rep. Carlos Isagani Zarate when the former asked the latter if he wants to help Lopez recite the first line of “Panatang Makabayan.”

.“Mawalang-galang na po Mr. Lopez, pwede ba naming hilingin sa inyo na i-recite ninyo ‘yung unang linya ng Panatang Makabayan. Unang linya lang,” Marcoleta asked Lopez which followed a long pause.

This prompted Marcoleta to ask Zarate: "Baka gusto niyo nang matulungan [si Mr. Lopez]."

Then Lopez was heard reciting: "Iniibig ko ang Pilipinas," which is the second sentence in the first line of "Panatang Makabayan.”

Apparently dismayed by the seeming insinuation that he was lawyering for ABS-CBN, Zarate, one of the authors of pending bills seeking to renew the franchise of the giant network, asked the panels to remove from the records Marcoleta’s remarks.

“I take exception to the side comment of Cong. Marcoleta,” said Zarate. “I am not the one under interpellation.”

“I move to strike (out) the statement of Cong. Marcoleta,” said Zarate.

Marcoleta countered the protest of Zarate, explaining he just asked the progressive lawmaker if he was inclined to help Lopez.

“Baka lang gusto nyo nang tulungan?” Marcoleta responded.

Sy-Alvarado, chairman of the House committee on good government and public accountability, moved to suspend the hearing and later granted Zarate’s request.

“ComSec (committee secretary) is directed to strike out the previous comment,” said Sy-Alvarado.

When the hearing resumed, Marcoleta said Lopez’s lawyer coached him in reciting the line “Iniibig ko ang Pilipinas."

“Noong tinanong ko ang unang linya ng Panatang Makabayan, nag-coach ang abogado ni Mr. Lopez, ‘yung 'Iniibig ko ang Pilipinas.' Yung abogado ang nagbulong sa kanya," Marcoleta pointed out.

Lopez faced questions anew from lawmakers skeptical about his loyalty and allegiance to the Philippines in the wake of his earlier admission that he is both a Filipino and a citizen of the United States, his place of birth.

As a dual citizen, Lopez is a holder of American and Filipino passports and was able to vote during the 2016 presidential elections in the United States (US) and the Philippines.

House members looking into the franchise of ABS-CBN have questioned whether dual citizens like Lopez could own a broadcast company in light of strict constitutional provision limiting the ownership of mass media to Filipino citizens.

House senior Deputy Majority Leader and Cavite Rep. Jesus Crispin Remulla pointed out that under the 1987 Constitution, dual allegiance is inimical to the national interest.

“Ang problema ho sa dual allegiance ay simpleng simple, pagka hindi magkasundo ang dalawang bansa ay papipiliin ang tao pagdating ng pahanon at nagkaroon po tayo ng nakaraan sa kasaysayan na halos 20 porsyento ng ating populasyon ay nilagas ng Amerika, pinatay po ang ating mga kababayan noong Fil-American war kaya ito ho ay hindi malayong usapin, ito po ay nasa kasaysayan,” Remulla said.

Remulla also inquired avout Lopez’s travel records to drive his point that the ABS-CBN boss was more of an American than Filipino as he used his U.S. passport more often than his Philippine passport, which he acquired only in 2001.

Remulla alleged that Lopez sought protection from the US government whenever he used his American passport.

“Under international law, a person carrying a passport of the United States is under protection by the US government and that is a declaration to the world that you are a citizen of America,” he stressed.

On questioning by Dumper PTDA party-list Rep. Claudine Diana Bautista, Lopez admitted that he used his US passport in a place where American citizens are allowed to travel without visa like Europe.

Lopez said he uses his Philippine passport every time he travels to any ASEAN country where Filipinos are not required to obtain a visa.

Marcoleta, for his part, questioned Lopez’s argument that he acquired his Filipino citizenship by jus sanguinis or a principle of nationality law by which citizenship is determined by the nationality or ethnicity of one or both parents.

Although he was born in the U.S., the 68-year-old Lopez claimed he is a Filipino because both his parents are Filipinos. But Marcoleta said: “The principle of jus sanguinis is a legal fiction.”

Marcoleta said Lopez must prove that he is a Filipino because his birth certificate, which is a conclusive proof of citizenship, shows otherwise.

Marcoleta also questioned why Lopez decided to secure a Philippine passport only 40 years after he was born.

“Dapat Pilipino lang ang mag-may-ari at magpalakad sa mass media, sasabihin ko po sa inyo, ang mass media po kasi pag tagurian yan ay fourth estate.

Makapangyarihan po ang mass media kagaya po ng pagkakaalam din ng mga opisyales ng ABS-CBN. Kulang na lang po na ipantay sa tatlong bahagi ng ating pamahalaan kahit hindi po siya parte ng ating political system ito po ay nakakapag -frame, nakakapagbalangkas ng mga political issues.

Maimpluwensiya po ito sa paglilinang ng kaisipan ng kaugalian, ng kultura ng ating bansa, kaya po ganon ang kautusan na ito (100 percent ownership), sapagkat kinakailangang masunod po natin yung huling linya naman ng Panatang Makabayan na maging Pilipino sa isip sa salita at sa gawa,” said Marcoleta.