DOJ asserts: ‘Gabby Lopez is a Filipino citizen since birth’

Mara Cepeda
DOJ asserts: ‘Gabby Lopez is a Filipino citizen since birth’

Justice Undersecretary Emmeline Aglipay Villar also tells a joint House panel that ABS-CBN chairman emeritus Gabby Lopez did not lose his Filipino citizenship when he used his American passport to travel

MANILA, Philippines – A senior Department of Justice (DOJ) official said on Wednesday, June 3, that ABS-CBN chairman emeritus Gabby Lopez is a Filipino citizen since birth because he was born to Filipino parents.

Speaking to lawmakers on Wednesday, June 3, DOJ Undersecretary Emmeline Aglipay Villar said that when Lopez sought to apply for the recognition of his Philippine citizenship in 2001, it was a confirmatory act of what he already possessed. (READ: LIVE: House hearing on ABS-CBN franchise renewal)

“Una po, tungkol po doon sa pagbigay ng kompirmasyon ng DOJ sa citizenship ni Mr Gabby Lopez, hindi po ito pamamaraan ng pag-grant or pag-perfect ng citizenship dahil po siya ay mayroong magulang, both father and mother na Filipino citizen. Kaya po, sa kanyang pagkapanganak, siya po ay isang Filipino citizen,” Villar said. 

(First, regarding the DOJ granting the confirmation on the citizenship of Mr Gabby Lopez, this is not a means to grant or perfect a citizenship because both of his parents, his father and mother, are Filipino citizens. That is why he is a Filipino citizen since birth.) 

“Tama rin po, dahil siya ay ipinanganak sa United States ay siya din po ay isang American citizen by birth. [He is] both Filipino and American citizen (It is also true that because he was born in the United States, he is also an American citizen by birth. He is both a Filipino and American citizen),” the DOJ official added. 

Villar said that Lopez, who carries Philippine and US passports, did not lose his Filipino citizenship when he used his American passport to travel. (READ: [EXPLAINER] Manila Times ‘exposé’ grossly false about Gabby Lopez’s citizenship) 

“Ang kanyang pong paggamit ng kanyang US passport ay hindi po dahilan para mawala po ang kanyang Filipino citizenship. At ang kanyang hindi pagkakaroon ng Philippine passport ay hindi rin isang dahilan na hindi siya maging Pilipino,” she said. 

(His use of his US passport is not a reason for him to lose his Filipino citizenship. Not having a Philippine passport would also not be a reason for him to become a non-Filipino.) 

Lopez was born in the US to Filipino parents in 1952, back when the 1935 Constitution was still in effect, making him automatically a natural born Filipino and an American citizen or a dual citizen of both countries.

Lawmakers spent about two hours repeatedly questioning Lopez about his citizenship, as critics argued that Lopez being an American makes ABS-CBN foreign-owned.  

Lopez said he never renounced his Filipino citizenship nor took the US pledge of allegiance, though he did vote during the 2016 presidential elections there.  

Lopez said he lived in the US when he was born, and also when his family fled to that country after the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos imposed Martial Law. Marcos shut down ABS-CBN, then led by his father  Eugenio Lopez Jr at the time.

Lopez willing to give up US citizenship

During the hearing, Anakalusugan Representative Mike Defensor asked Lopez if he ever considered giving up his US citizenship. Lopez said yes.  

“Frankly, the issue of being a dual citizen is not something that I think about. I know in my heart I’m a Filipino and all my actions in the last 35 years – I’ve been associated with ABS-CBN – has been in the service of the Filipino in my mind,” Lopez said. 

“You are right, it is something that I considered, but it was never something I felt was an issue in terms of any of my action. If it came down to conflict of interest, I would give up my US citizenship in a minute,” he added. 

The House committees on legislative franchises and good government and public accountability are currently conducting hearings on the alleged violations of ABS-CBN, which the National Telecommunications Commission ordered to closed down after the network’s franchise lapsed on May 4. 

ABS-CBN already ran to the Supreme Court to seek a temporary restraining order on the NTC’s closure order. 

Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano said the House would decide whether to grant or reject ABS-CBN’s franchise application by August. – 

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Mara Cepeda

Mara Cepeda specializes in stories about politics and local governance. She covers the Office of the Vice President, the Senate, and the Philippine opposition. She is a 2021 fellow of the Asia Journalism Fellowship and the Reham al-Farra Memorial Journalism Fellowship of the UN. Got tips? Email her at or tweet @maracepeda.