Lawmakers want probe of SMNI link with China propaganda unit
Concerned about free speech and freedom of the press, opposition lawmakers said on Friday that they are “not generally sold” on revoking the franchise of Sonshine Media Network International (SMNI).
“Generally, we’re not yet sold on the revocation of the franchise. We just want to set right its programs, its directions without them Red-tagging or vilifying anyone, with free speech and freedom of the press in place,” said House deputy minority leader and ACT Teachers Rep. France Castro.
“We want to look into the partnership of SMNI with CGTN (China Global Television Network) the Chinese network, and its agreement with the military and the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-Elcac),” Castro said at an online press briefing on Friday.
Castro pressed the House legislative franchises committee to investigate its links to the CGTN, an English-language channel run by the central propaganda department of the Chinese Communist Party.
Castro and her colleagues in the Makabayan bloc also reiterated the need to investigate SMNI’s agreement with the military and the NTF-Elcac.
The task force, which is expected to get a budget of P10.264 billion in 2024, was criticized last month by UN Special Rapporteur Ian Fry “because it … is operating beyond its original mandate and is Red-tagging people from the community.”
SMNI announced its partnership with CGTN in July this year. In a post on X on July 18, SMNI said the collaboration sought to “enhance the exchange of news and promote a deeper understanding of current affairs” and that “by working together, SMNI News and CGTN will deliver comprehensive and reliable news coverage to their respective audiences.”
Castro made the remarks amid the ongoing probe into SMNI and its supposed franchise violations.
For Gabriela Womens Rep. Arlene Brosas, the House must also go after Quiboloy and extradite him to the United States so he can face charges of sex trafficking there.
“They are saying SMNI’s ownership changed. We have not yet uncovered what Quiboloy’s role in SMNI is but everyone is pointing to him as the owner,” she said.
Brosas added: “The government must immediately extradite Quiboloy. He must face these appalling crimes that were ignored during the previous administration because he is very close to former President Rodrigo Duterte.”
On Thursday, Parañaque Rep. Gus Tambunting, chair of the House panel, said a bill seeking to revoke SMNI’s franchise was already filed but has not yet been deliberated at the committee level.
The probe stemmed from SMNI host Jeffrey Celiz’s false claims about Speaker Martin Romualdez’s P1.8 billion travel expenses—which turned out to total only P39.60 million for the entire House of Representatives.