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Dual citizens by birth can own property, businesses in PHL –DOJ

As far as the Department of Justice (DOJ) was concerned, dual citizens by birth have the right to own property and engage in businesses in the Philippines.

This was revealed during the joint hearing of the House Committees on Legislative Franchises and on Good Government and Public Accountability during a hearing on ABS-CBN's franchise when the citizenship of the company's chairman emeritus Gabby Lopez III was questioned.

During the hearing, Ako Bicol party-list Representative Alfredo Garbin Jr. asked DOJ Assistant Secretary Nicholas Ty to confirm whether the benefits granted to individuals who have reacquired their Philippine citizenship under RA 9225, or the "Citizenship Retention and Re-acquisition Act of 2003" could also be accorded to dual citizens by birth.

These benefits, according to Garbin, include the right to vote, the right to own land and property in the Philippines, and the right to engage in business or profession as Filipino.

"It would appear that the benefits that are accorded to dual citizens by virtue of RA 9225 are likewise accorded to dual citizens by birth," Ty told Garbin.

Lopez, a Filipino citizen by birth, was also an American citizen after he was born in the United States to Filipino parents.

But this was the same issue that Deputy Speaker Rodante Marcoleta raised against ABS-CBN, that when Lopez took the helm of ABS-CBN in 1986, he was an American citizen which violates the provision in the Constitution that mass media companies in the Philippines should be 100%-Filipino owned.

Cavite Representative Crispin Remulla, during the hearing, pointed out that despite the opinion of the DOJ, the Constitution provides that mass media companies should be "100% owned" or "wholly-owned" by Filipinos or corporations which are 100% Filipino.

But Commissioner Ephyro Luis Amatong of the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) said that based on their interpretation of RA 9225, dual citizens are 100% Filipinos.

"Our interpretation of the dual citizenship law has been similar to that of the Department of Justice. The interpretation of RA 9225 is that a dual citizen is 100% Filipino. Yan ang current interpretation namin," Amatong said.

"We don't look anymore, at this point, at the foreign citizenship of the shareholder or director," he added.

Amatong noted, however, that the correct rules to apply when it comes to mass media entities are still pending before the Supreme Court, and that the opinion of the SEC is with regards to stockholders and officers of a corporation engaged in real estate.

"Ang naging opinyon ng SEC is that with respect to these shareholders under the Dual Citizenship Law, they had all of the qualifications to be stockholders and officers of that real estate company engaged in real estate business which is reserved for Filipinos," he said.

"But specifically the question with respect to ownership of mass media, yan ang very essence of one of the issues raised in the case before the Supreme Court," he added.

The joint House panels began hearing the bills granting another 25-year franchise to ABS-CBN after the House leadership decided to drop the measure that would supposedly give the network a provisional franchise until October 31, 2020.

Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano, himself an author of the provisional franchise bill, has said the issue on the ABS-CBN franchise has already become "so divisive" and is taking up the time even as there are more pressing matters to discuss such as that of COVID-19 response measures.

He, however, vowed to have a fair and comprehensive hearings on the issue at the committee level. — DVM, GMA News