SMNI lawyer asks for 'due process' if any franchise violation was made | Inquirer News

SMNI lawyer asks for ‘due process’ if any franchise violation was made

/ 11:51 PM December 07, 2023

MANILA, Philippines — While the lawyer of Sonshine Media Network International (SMNI) has insisted that there was no franchise violation, he also maintained that the media company should be allowed to place corrective measures if they have erred.

In an interview with reporters on Thursday, SMNI legal counsel Mark Tolentino said that due process should be given to the network since there were disclaimers about the views and opinions of hosts.

SMNI has found itself in hot waters after Laban Kasama ng Bayan host Jeffrey Celiz claimed that Speaker Ferdinand Martin Romualdez had a P1.8 billion travel expense, while House officials said it was only P39.60 million for the entire HouseThe issue has resulted in a probe where some lawmakers believe SMNI breached rules stated in its franchise, which can be grounds for revocation.


“We believe na walang violation. Kung may violation man at least bigyan ng pagkakataon na i-comply yun. And kung assuming na mali yun, at least may due process pa rin. But in this case, hindi natin na-avail yung due process na kailangan ng SMNI and hindi lang due process, equal protection clause,” Tolentino said.


(We believe there is no violation.  And if there is a violation, at least they should give us a chance to comply with the requirements. And assuming it is wrong, there should be due process also.  But in this case, we have not availed the due process and the equal protection clause that SMNI needs.)

“So kung ano yung interpretation natin lalo na yung tinatawag nating ‘disclaimer.’ Disclaimer sabi nila nagtatago raw ang SMNI sa disclaimer. Kung ‘yon ang interpretation nila, ano naman ang nangyari sa ibang media establishment na may disclaimer?  That is an open practice sa lahat ng mga media establishment about the disclaimer and wala namang batas na nagsasabi na illegal ang disclaimer,” he added.

(So what is our interpretation of a “disclaimer”?  They said we are hiding behind a disclaimer.  If that is their interpretation, what would happen to other media establishments with disclaimers? That is an open practice to all media establishments about the disclaimer and there is no law saying that disclaimers are illegal.)

When asked again about being allowed to comply if there are violations, Tolentino said that should be the case, adding that it seems lawmakers have already set in their minds that SMNI breached provisions in its franchise.

“Ang mga congressman kasi palagi nilang ini-insist na may violation. In fact, ang utak ng mga congressman, may violation na. So binigyan kami ng pagkakataon […] to respond kanilang gustong mangyari kasi ang utak nila may violation na. SMNI give us a reason why you did not violate parang ganon,” he said.

(The congressmen always insist that there’s a violation.  In fact, in their minds, a violation has been committed already.  So we were given a chance to respond to what they wanted to happen because they thought that a violation had happened. It’s like they’re saying, “SMNI, give us a reason why you did not violate.”)


“Mali ‘yan sa rules on due process kasi the one who alleges ang may obligasyon to prove na may violation. There’s a presumption of good faith on the part of SMNI. So the one who alleges, sila dapat ang magpresinta ng ebidensya na nag-violate ang SMNI, hindi ang SMNI,” he added.

(That’s wrong on the rules on due process because the one who alleges has the obligation to prove that there is violation.  There’s a presumption of good faith on the part of SMNI.  So the one who alleges should present evidence that SMNI has violated the franchise provisions, not SMNI.)

After the hearing of the House committee on legislative franchises last Tuesday, Surigao del Sur 2nd District Rep. Johnny Pimentel mentioned at least four provisions in Republic Act No. 11422 — SMNI’s franchise — which were violated:

  • Section 4, particularly provisions barring the network from using its stations or facilities for the dissemination of deliberately false information or willful misrepresentation due to Celiz’s claims against Romualdez and past incidents where hosts spread disinformation
  • Section 10 or the Sale, Lease, Transfer, Grant of Usufruct, or Assignment of Franchise
  • Section 11 or the Dispersal of Ownership
  • Section 12 or the Reportorial Requirement

Of these parts of R.A. No. 11422, violation of Section 10 and Section 11 leads to an ‘ipso facto’ or automatic revocation of the franchise.

READ: No ‘power play’ in probe of SMNI, says Rep. Johnny Pimentel

But Pimentel and Parañaque 2nd District Rep. Gus Tambunting, the committee chair, said that SMNI will be given a chance to explain their side.

The P1.8 billion claim from Celiz, which was denied by House Secretary General Reginald Velasco, prompted Quezon 2nd District Rep. David Suarez to ask that the committee exercise its oversight function and probe SMNI and the complaints against the network.

During the first hearing, Celiz eventually apologized to the House and 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 the wrong figure.

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READ: SMNI host apologizes for wrong claims on Speaker’s travel expenses

TAGS: franchise, Probe, SMNI, violation

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