House panel adopts resolution urging NTC to suspend SMNI ops
MANILA, Philippines — The House committee on legislative franchises has adopted House Resolution (HR) No. 1499, which urges the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) to suspend the operations of Sonshine Media Network International (SMNI).
During Monday’s panel hearing, Isabela 6th District Rep. Faustino “Inno” Dy moved to adopt the amended version of HR No. 1499, originally authored by PBA Rep. Margarita Nograles.
After it was duly seconded, Parañaque City 2nd District Rep. Gus Tambunting, committee chairperson, approved the motion.
The original resolution was filed by Nograles last December 5, calling for the suspension of Swara Sug Media Corporation’s operation for supposedly violating the terms and conditions of its franchise under Republic Act No. 11422.
Swara Sug Media Corporation is the business name of SMNI.
According to Nograles, who is a lawyer by profession, Section 4 of SMNI’s legislative franchise restrains them from using its stations or facilities to propagate false information.
Nograles was referring to claims aired by Jeffrey Celiz, host of SMNI’s Laban Kasama ng Bayan, that Speaker Ferdinand Martin Romualdez’s travel expenses reached P1.8 billion. House officials, including Secretary General Reginald Velasco, debunked it, saying that the entire House only spent P39.60 million for travels between January 2023 and October 2023.
“SMNI is mandated not to use its stations or facilities for the deliberate dissemination of false information or willful misrepresentation to the detriment of the public interest […] whereas, SMNI failed in its responsibility to the public by deliberately disseminating false information, thus, some Members of the House of Representatives filed House Resolutions and urged the [NTC] to look into any violation of the terms and conditions of franchise committed by SMNI,” Nograles’ resolution stresses.
“On November 29, 2023, in his privilege speech, Representative David ‘Jay-jay’ C. Suarez of the Second Legislative District of Quezon Province noted the fake news-peddling committed by SMNI through its program ‘Laban Kasama ng Bayan’ and challenged its hosts to name the source of the false information that Honorable Speaker Ferdinand Martin G. Romualdez has spent P1.8 Billion for his foreign travel expenses in a year,” it also states.
During the initial hearing of the panel, Celiz apologized for claiming that Romualdez spent P1.8 billion on his travels. He also admitted that his source from the Senate — which he did not name — was wrong.
SMNI found itself in hot waters after Celiz’s claims, eventually leading to the panel scrutinizing the network’s franchise. Some lawmakers believe SMNI breached rules stated in its franchise, which can be grounds for revocation.