House panel starts probe into Sonshine Media Network | Inquirer News

House panel starts probe into Sonshine Media Network

/ 05:58 AM December 01, 2023

A panel of the House of Representatives on Thursday kicked off its probe into alleged franchise violations of Sonshine Media Network International (SMNI).

The House committee on legislative franchises, chaired by Parañaque City Rep. Gustavo Tambunting, grilled SMNI representatives and its talents Jeffrey Celiz and Lorraine Marie Badoy over one of their TV broadcasts.

Tambunting said the franchise granted to SMNI owner Swara Sug Media Corp. is being scrutinized on its alleged violation of Section 4 of Republic Act No. 11422 where “the grantee shall … conform to the ethics of honest enterprise; and not use its stations or facilities … for the dissemination of deliberately false information or willful misrepresentation, to the detriment of the public interest.”


In one broadcast, Celiz “questioned” the information he received from unidentified sources that Speaker Ferdinand Martin Romualdez incurred travel expenses amounting to P1.8 billion.


Upon verification, however, House Secretary General Reginald Velasco said that the office of the Speaker spent some P4.3 million for travel while the entire House travel expenditure totaled over P35.3 million.

Celiz told lawmakers he never categorically claimed that Romualdez spent P1.8 billion for travel expenses but only questioned the actual expenses based on an anonymous tip and another tip from a Senate employee whom he refused to identify.

When he was confronted by facts presented by the House secretary general, Celiz conceded that his source may have been wrong.

In the same hearing, National Telecommunications Commission deputy commissioner Alvin Blanco told the House panel that SMNI seems to have committed infractions of its franchise.

“There appears to be infractions on certain provisions of the franchise particularly … on Section 4 on the responsibility of the franchise not to use the station or its facilities for the dissemination of willful or false information,” Blanco noted.

“The alleged acts seem to disregard the mandated responsibility to the public of the franchisee under its franchise (Republic Act 11422), regarding the dissemination of deliberately false information or willful representation to the detriment of public interest,” Blanco said.


But SMNI lawyers argued that no allegation was made on the P1.8 billion travel expenses because Celiz only asked a question. Moreover, the program also had a disclaimer that any opinion expressed by its anchors was not of SMNI’s.

“We acted in good faith and there was no statement, official statement given by SMNI,” said SMNI lawyer Mark Tolentino.

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TAGS: Probe, SMNI, Sonshine Media Network International

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