Congress can prevent media ownership by dual citizens -- solon


A House leader has reminded media entities that Congress has the power to ban dual citizens from owning media companies.

Chairman of the House committee on public accounts and Anakalusugan party-list Rep. Mike Defensor said that there is a need to protect the national interest against those who want to take advantage through media.

He said the comprehensive House hearings on the proposed fresh grant of a 25-year franchise to ABS-CBN Broadcasting Corp. “have shown that allowing a Filipino who is at the same time a citizen of another country is inimical to national security and the nation’s interest.”

“It is contrary to the provision of the Constitution that media should be 100-percent owned and managed by Filipinos or cooperatives or corporations wholly owned by Filipinos. It is against another provision of the Charter banning dual allegiance,” Defensor stressed.

The constitutional prohibitions have been highlighted in the hearings on the ABS-CBN franchise proposal because Eugenio “Gabby” Lopez lll, the network’s current chairman emeritus and previous chairman/president/general manager is a dual citizen -- a Filipino and at the same time an American.

Defensor, a vice chairman of one of the two hearing committees, recalled that the Department of Justice told them on Monday that Congress has the authority to flesh out the constitutional mandate on ownership of media by Filipinos.

“I think the consensus is to do just that, so that dual citizens who certainly have allegiance to two countries would be prohibited from becoming media owners or shareholders. I, for one, will recommend or support legislation that would impose such prohibition,” he said.

Session is adjourned nevertheless the House committee on the legislative franchises and committee on good government and public accountability have been hearing not just franchise bills but issues concerning ownership of the ABS-CBN Corporation.

During the previous hearings, Lopez admitted that he is both a Filipino and American citizen.

According to Defensor, a dual citizen is not allowed to own a media company as clearly stated in the 1987 Constitution.

He said he would also initiate or support a proposal to implement the constitutional provision against dual allegiance.

Defensor reiterated his example of a Filipino who is at the same time a citizen of China and who owns a newspaper or a television or radio station.

“At this time when Manila and Beijing are involved in a bitter dispute over the West Philippine Sea, which side such a Filipino-Chinese take? Which country’s interest he would protect?” he asked.

It is situations like this that the constitutional mandate on 100-percent Filipino ownership and another provision against dual allegiance intend to prevent, he said.

In one hearing, deputy speaker and Cavite Rep. Crispin Remulla echoed Defensor’s arguments.

To drive home his point against dual citizens as media owners and dual allegiance, Remulla reminded his colleagues that during the Philippine-American war, the Americans “killed 20 percent of our population.”

For his part, Cavite  Rep. Elpidio Barzaga Jr. cited debates on the issues of dual citizenship and dual allegiance in the 1986 constitutional commission that drafted the present Constitution.

Barzaga said the commission held the view that to resolve the question of dual allegiance, a dual citizen has to decide which of his two citizenships he would retain.