Bill seeking to revoke SMNI franchise filed in House, set for deliberation
MANILA, Philippines — A bill seeking to revoke the franchise of Sonshine Media Network International (SMNI) has already been filed before the House of Representatives, but it will still be deliberated by a panel, according to Parañaque 2nd District Rep. Gus Tambunting.
In an interview on Thursday, Tambunting — who chairs the House committee on legislative franchises — clarified though that the bill would be a separate discussion from the panel’s investigation.
The committee is probing SMNI after program host Jeffrey Celiz made false claims about Speaker Ferdinand Martin Romualdez spending P1.8 billion for travel expenses, which was later found out to be P39.60 million only for the entire House.
“Wala pa po tayo doon (We’re not there yet). Right now, what we have is a resolution that was approved, asking NTC to suspend the airing of their program based on the preliminary findings of the committee, and this was voted upon. ‘Yong ipso facto po has not been agreed on or voted upon because the bill has not been voted upon,” Tambunting said when asked about the possible revocation of SMNI’s franchise.
When pressed further if there is already a bill that calls for revocation of their franchise, the lawmaker said it was “already filed in the plenary”.
“It was filed and that will also be taken up separately by the committee, ibang usapan po yun. Right now, we’re discussing po dito, gusto lang po naming malaman sino po ‘yong empleyado ng Senado, and hindi po totoo na hindi po siya nabigyan ng abugado,” Tambunting said of Celiz, who said that his figures came from a source in the Senate.
(It was filed, and that will also be taken up separately by the committee; that’s a different discussion. Right now, we’re discussing, we want to know who the Senate employee is, and that it is not true that he was not given a lawyer.)
Tambunting was referring to ‘ipso facto’ provisions in SMNI’s franchise, where automatic revocation is possible if it violates certain portions of the law, like Sections 10 and 11 of Republic Act No. 11422.
R.A. No. 11422 is the law that contains SMNI’s 25-year franchise.
Committee vice chairperson and Surigao del Sur 2nd District Rep. Johnny Pimentel mentioned on Wednesday Section 10 of R.A. 11422, which mandates the network to inform Congress about sales or major changes to the company ownership.
Pimentel also discussed Section 11, which requires the media company to offer at least 30 percent of its stock to the public. Both sections — which the lawmaker believes was breached by SMNI — call for immediate franchise revocation if violated.
The P1.8 billion claim from Laban Kasama ng Bayan host Jeffrey Celiz, which was denied by House Secretary General Reginald Velasco, prompted Quezon 2nd District Rep. David Suarez to urge the House to let the committee on legislative franchises exercise its oversight function and probe SMNI along with other complaints against the network.
During the first hearing, Celiz eventually apologized to the House and to Romualdez for airing unverified data, adding that it was given to him by a source from the Senate. He also admitted that the P1.8 billion travel expense was a wrong figure.