SMNI host says his source on Speaker’s travel expenses a worker in Senate
MANILA, Philippines — The Sonshine Media Network International (SMNI) host who wrongly claimed that Speaker Ferdinand Martin Romualdez incurred a P1.8 billion travel expense said that his source of information was a government employee who works for the Senate.
However, self proclaimed former rebel and SMNI’s Laban Kasama ang Bayan host Jeffrey “Ka Eric” Celiz on Thursday refrained from further divulging details surrounding his source’s job or personal details to protect him.
During the hearing of the House committee on legislative franchises, Quezon 2nd District Rep. David Suarez — the same lawmaker who prodded the House to direct the panel to probe SMNI over its hosts’ false claims — tried to deduce who gave Celiz the information.
“It’s a yes or no, does he work in Congress?” Suarez asked, to which Celiz replied in the negative.
Initially, Celiz said that he did not want to reveal more information about the source since he may be tracked, but he eventually admitted that this person works at the Senate, after being reminded of his statements at SMNI’s Laban Kasama ang Bayan program.
In the Monday episode of the program, Celiz said that “Speaker Martin Romualdez, his travel cost is at P1.8 billion” for just one year, adding that it was “breaking information coming from (a) Congress source.”
“Okay, because in your statement you said, ‘Based on my source in Congress, gumastos si Speaker Martin Romualdez ng P1.8 billion.’ You said, ‘Based on my source from Congress.’ And you just said now that he is not an employee of Congress,” Suarez pointed out.
“Lower House? No, Congress is two, Senate and lower House. Not from the lower House. Congress is composed of two Houses — lower House and Senate. So wala po sa (So he is not in the) House of Representatives,” Celiz replied.
“So what you’re saying is, sa Senado (in the Senate). ‘Di ba (Right)?” Suarez asked.
“Eh baka pa-imbestigahan din ako ng Senado dahil d’yan (The Senate might ask to investigate me also because of that),” Celiz noted.
Towards the end of the hearing, Suarez said that out of respect to the Senate, the committee should send a copy of the transcript to the other legislative chamber due to the sensitivity of Celiz’s remarks.
“Mr. Chair, can I just add lang something very important, I just came to realize a very important point. Due to the revelations of Ka Eric, I think we are treading on very dangerous waters when it comes to inter-parliamentary relationships with the Senate,” Suarez said.
“May I request that the transcripts of the said hearing be forwarded to the Senate for the Senate to respond because if this is true, and assuming that tama ‘yong sinasabi ni Ka Eric, may naglalabas ng disinformation laban sa mababang kapulungan, at ang pinaghuhugutan pa nito, ay ‘yong kasamahan natin sa Kongreso na ibang, na Senado,” he went on.
(Assuming that the information from Ka Eric is correct, then someone has released disinformation against the lower House, and this stems from our colleagues in Congress, from the Senate.)
“And I think those are very, very, dangerous situations to find ourselves in, so I hope we can take this seriously,” he added.
Committee chairperson and Parañaque City 2nd District Rep. Gus Tambunting agreed with Suarez and directed the committee secretariat to submit the transcripts.
Earlier, House Secretary General Reginald Velasco released figures showing that Romualdez and the rest of House lawmakers and secretariat officials only spent P39.60 million for foreign trips from January 2023 to October 2023 — far from the P1.8 billion claimed by Celiz in the SMNI program.
According to Velasco, financial reports on the foreign travel of the Speaker show that Romualdez and his staffers only spent P4.34 million, while the remaining P35.25 million was for other lawmakers and officials.