CEBU CITY—The future of the 35 employees of Sugbo TV and Sugbo News appears bleak after acting Gov. Agnes Magpale shut down the operation of these two province-owned media outlets on Friday.
Magpale told a news conference on Saturday that the closure was just temporary and Sugbo TV would start airing in January.
She explained that the closure stemmed from budgetary concerns and the need to review the programs in the wake of allegation that these were used as propaganda machinery of suspended Governor Gwendolyn Garcia.
“The Garcias used the Sugbo TV in campaigning,” Magpale said.
She also asked an executive summary of the functions and duties of the 35 personnel of Sugbo TV and Sugbo News.
Magpale said that although their contracts would expire on Dec. 31, the employees would receive their salary this month and a P30,000-bonus.
There was, however, no assurance that their contracts would be renewed, she added.
The employees might also be assigned to other capitol offices, Magpale said.
Sugbo TV was a 24-hour cable program aired over SkyCable, while Sugbo News was a monthly news magazine of the province.
Both were pet projects of Garcia who has been ordered suspended by Malacañang for six months for grave abuse of authority. She, however, continues to defy the order and has been holed up at the governor’s office since Wednesday. Garcia said she and her family would spend Christmas in her office.
On Friday, Magpale ordered the suspension of the media outlets’ operations and directed the police to guard sensitive offices inside the capitol compound, including the TV facilities.
“They are not an independent media institution; they are adjuncts to the suspended Governor Gwen’s office. The issue on prior restraint is not applicable,” she said.
Magpale said they downloaded episodes aired at Sugbo TV which was used for “campaigning” by the Garcias.
Garcia is running for third district representative, replacing her brother, Rep. Pablo John Garcia who is running for governor under the One Cebu Party.
Magpale, who is running for vice governor, belongs to the Liberal Party whose standard bearer is Hilario Davide III.
Magpale said they would have to reformat some programs so the cable channel would serve its mandate to promote Cebu province.
The budget allocation for the two outlets was also subject to scrutiny during the Provincial Board’s budget hearing last Dec. 10, after the executive asked P8-million budget for Sugbo TV for 2013 from P200,000 this year for its cable operations.
Sugbo News keeps its 2012 budget of P22 million in the 2013 proposed budget.
Aside from the P200,000 allocation in the annual budget, the provincial government also pays P100,000 monthly in airtime to SkyCable and $14,000 (P560,000 in an exchange of $1 to P40) monthly for the satellite feed.
An ordinance institutionalizing the Sugbo TV and Sugbo News is pending at the Provincial Board.
The proposed ordinance seeks to enhance the function of the Public Information Office using Sugbo TV and Sugbo News as vehicles for communication development.
Magpale also said Sugbo News editor, Roger Serna, told her that Sugbo News had ceased printing five months ago.
When reached for comment, Serna denied Magpale’s claim.
“Wrong. Six months our outputs did not come out of the printing press because the purchase request had not been approved,” he said in a text message.
Magpale also suspended capitol-funded radio programs aired in three AM radio stations.
She, however, said that payment would be made as stipulated in the contract, which would expire on December 31.
The letters were sent to radio stations dyLA, dyRF and dyKC, which aired the daily program “One Cebu” or “Hiniusang Sugbo”, the name of the political party led by Garcia.
“Pending the outcome of the review, I am requesting you in my capacity as the acting chief executive of Cebu to immediately restrain and disallow any and all persons from anchoring capitol-paid radio programs in your station, unless prior approval from the undersigned is first sought,” said Magpale’s letter dated Dec. 20.