Quiboloy’s SMNI probed for spreading fake news
MANILA, Philippines — The House Committee on Legislative Franchises will conduct a hearing on Thursday on Sonshine Media Network International’s (SMNI) alleged practice of spreading fake news after the network claimed that Speaker Martin Romualdez had spent P1.8 billion for his travels.
During a plenary session on Tuesday, lawmakers tasked the committee to launch an investigation after House Deputy Majority Leader and Quezon Rep. David Suarez expressed concern over the allegation in a privilege speech. He also called on the House committee to exercise its inherent oversight function to investigate the network owned by controversial televangelist Apollo Quiboloy.
Suarez quoted a statement issued by House Secretary General Reginald Velasco, which called the network’s claim about Romualdez’s P1.8-billion travel expenses “malicious and baseless.”
“We categorically deny these false allegations and condemn, in the strongest terms, the propagation of such irresponsible and damaging news,” Velasco wrote, stressing, “This is a deliberate attack on the integrity of the House and a sad reflection to the lengths some individuals will go to undermine our democratic institutions.”
“We demand immediate retraction and apology from those spreading those fake lies. Furthermore, we are exploring other options to hold accountable those responsible for this smear campaign. Our focus remains steadfast in serving this nation and we will not be deterred by such underhanded tactics,” Velasco added.
Suarez wondered in his privilege speech if the network had taken steps to validate the report.
“Did they even care to ask? Did they even care to find out what really is the truth with regards to this matter?” he asked. “We are all public officials and we are all open to criticisms and public opinion and, unfortunately, open to fake news.”
Suarez said it was important to confront the “lie” with the truth as it was the only way to determine that it was nothing but baseless attacks or fake news that “destroy the very integrity and dignity of the House of Representatives that we are all members of.”
“So as I rise now on a matter of personal and collective privilege, in the spirit of transparency and accountability, I humbly request this august chamber to direct the committee on legislative franchises, in the exercise of its inherent oversight function, to investigate this matter immediately and other similar measures pending with the committee, including this personal and collective privilege,” he added.
The SMNI network has been called out several times before for Red-tagging journalists and some political candidates in the 2022 elections in addition to spreading disinformation.
Former President Rodrigo Duterte, who has his own program on the TV network, went on a tirade last month against Romualdez after a House committee decided to scrap the confidential funds sought by his daughter, Vice President Sara Duterte, for her office and the Department of Education, which she also heads.
The elder Duterte called Congress “the most rotten institution” in the country and accused Romualdez of orchestrating attacks against his daughter. He also said he would demand an audit of the House’s funds should Romualdez run for president.