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Even before the Covid-19 pandemic, the renewal of the franchise of ABS-CBN was a controversial issue specially so that the president himself declared that he will “block” the same. ABS-CBN is undeniably a huge company and operates not just television but radio, and other media related business. This franchise is one which is granted through an act of congress and requires the signature of the president. Obviously, even if an act granting the franchise is passed by congress, the president’s signature will still be required. The franchise earlier granted to the network already lapsed last 04 May 2020 and the airing of its programs were therefore stopped while the lower house deliberates on whether a new franchise should be granted. One of the main issues hurled against the embattled media giant is the citizenship of its former CEO Gabby Lopez. It is being alleged that ABS-CBN violated the constitutional provision on media ownership during Lopez’s tenure because the latter is a citizen of the United States he having been born there and a holder of a U.S. passport. Our constitution provides: “Section 11. (1) 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.” How then can Gabby’s real citizenship determined and was he in fact allowed to manage or own a mass media network? Although the Department of Justice supposedly said that Gabby Lopez is a citizen of the Philippines, it is still essential that we determine who indeed is a Filipino Citizen.
There are two main principles being followed by countries around the world to determine citizenship. One is Jus Sanguinis where the citizenship of an individual is determined by his lineage or through blood. The other way is through the principle of of Jus Soli where citizenship is determined by the place of birth regardless of the citizenship of the parents. The United States adopts the principle of Jus Soli and therefore it is very possible that a child born inside an airplane while traversing the airspace of the United States can very well be considered a U.S. citizen. This allows for a situation where an individual can have two citizenship just like when a child is born within the territorial jurisdiction of the United States to parent or parents who are Filipinos. Our Constitution enumerates who are citizens of the Philippines: “Article IV, Section 1. The following are citizens of the Philippines:  Those who are citizens of the Philippines at the time of the adoption of this Constitution;  Those whose fathers or mothers are citizens of the Philippines;  Those born before January 17, 1973, of Filipino mothers, who elect Philippine citizenship upon reaching the age of majority; and  Those who are naturalized in accordance with law.” As in the case of Lopez whose parents are allegedly Filipinos, his citizenship is determined under the second enumeration. Under this qualification, at least one of the parents must be a Filipino in order for the child to be considered one. Before the 1973 Constitution, citizenship was a little complicated if the father is an alien but the mother is a Filipino. The 1935 Constitution states that: “Those whose mothers are citizens of the Philippines and, upon reaching the age majority, elect Philippine Citizenship” are citizens of the Philippines. In effect, if the mother is a Filipino but the father is a foreigner, that person is not a Filipino but becomes one if he elects “Philippine citizenship upon reaching the age majority”.
This lead to difficult situations for many who assumed that since they were born and lived in the country they are Filipinos even is their fathers are foreigners, not knowing that they needed to elect Philippine citizenship. The landmark case of Villahermosa vs. The Commissioner of Immigration (G.R. No. L-1663, March 31, 1948) which was already discussed in an earlier article demonstrated the harshness of this situation. Delfin Co whose father is Chinese and mother a Filipino was not considered a Filipino because he has yet to elect Philippine citizenship upon reaching the age of majority.
This was remedied by the 1973 constitution which was retained by the 1987 constitution when it stated that those “whose fathers or mothers are citizens of the Philippines” are Filipinos. If it is true then that both of Lopez’s parents are Filipinos, he is to be considered a citizen of our republic.