NTC heeds House clamor, suspends SMNI for 30 days | Inquirer News

NTC heeds House clamor, suspends SMNI for 30 days

The House committee on legislative franchises has adopted House Resolution (HR) No. 1499, which seeks to urge the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) to suspend the operations of Sonshine Media Network International (SMNI).


The National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) has ordered a 30-day suspension of Sonshine Media Network International (SMNI), but it gave the broadcaster owned by evangelist Apollo Quiboloy 15 days to comment on why it should not be sanctioned for alleged violations of its franchise.

The Dec. 19 decision was made on the same day that the Movie and Television Review and Classification Board (MTRCB) announced the two-week suspension of two of the network’s programs due to complaints that they allegedly spread false reports.


The NTC’s suspension order will take effect upon its receipt by SMNI. The Inquirer could not immediately confirm as of Thursday evening whether the network had received the NTC’s order.


The NTC said in a statement on Thursday that it scheduled a hearing on the suspension on Jan. 4, 2024.

‘Willful misrepresentation’

The suspension is based on a resolution by the House of Representatives “urging the National Telecommunications Commission to suspend the operations of Swara Sug Media Corp. operating under the business name Sonshine Media Network International (SMNI), for violating the terms and conditions of its franchise under Republic Act No. 11422.”

RA 11422 was the 2019 law granting the network a 25-year extension of its franchise to operate and maintain radio and television stations.

House Resolution No. 1499, filed by Puwersa ng Bayaning Atleta Rep. Margarita Nograles, called out SMNI for using its stations or facilities to propagate false information.

Along with its decision to suspend SMNI, the NTC had issued a “show cause order” directing the network to explain in writing, within 15 days from receiving the order, why it should not be sanctioned.

According to the House committee on legislative franchises, SMNI violated several sections of RA 11422.


The network’s violations allegedly included the “deliberate dissemination of false information or willful misrepresentation to the detriment of public interest.”

Earlier this week, the MTRCB ordered the 14-day suspension of former President Rodrigo Duterte’s show “Gikan sa Masa, Para sa Masa” (From the Masses, for the Masses) and “Laban Kasama ang Bayan” program hosted by anticommunist propagandists Lorraine Badoy Partosa and Jeffrey Celiz.

Imee: Who’s afraid?

The order took effect on Dec. 18 after a “thorough review and investigation” of alleged false reports spread by the two shows, according to the MTRCB.

Prior to this, 1-Rider Rep. Ramon Rodrigo Gutierrez also filed House Bill No. 9710 to revoke SMNI’s franchise. The bill cites the same violations flagged by the House committee.

On Monday this week, Bayan Muna chair, former Rep. Teddy Casiño, filed a P2.1-million civil suit against Partosa and Celiz in the Makati City Regional Trial Court. Sen. Imee Marcos questioned the NTC’s decision.

In a statement on Thursday, Marcos said media networks must not be shut down just because they take a stance opposed to the government.

“Who’s afraid of SMNI? Which media entities will remain to uphold the freedom of the press, speech and thought?” she said.

Speaker’s ‘spending’

SMNI drew the ire of the House after Duterte in his television program in October called the Lower House “the most corrupt institution” when lawmakers scrapped the P650-million proposed confidential funds for his daughter, Vice President Sara Duterte.

The former president also said that one of his and his daughter’s fiercest critics, Deputy House Minority Leader and ACT Teachers Rep. France Castro, should be among those who should be killed in the government’s anti-insurgency campaign.

Partosa and Celiz also faced a House inquiry after they were accused of sowing “false information” when Celiz claimed in their program that Speaker Martin Romualdez spent up to P1.8 billion in travel expenses. Celiz later apologized for his claim, saying he failed to verify it.

They were cited in contempt and held for several days at the House detention facility. The pair staged a hunger strike to protest their detention.

Marcos, who is a close political ally of the former President, hinted that the network was deprived of due process.

“How could the NTC issue a show cause order but simultaneously hand down a 30-day suspension? Amazing!” she said.

Duterte hits MTRCB

The senator indicated that the government order could be a way to prevent SMNI from exposing irregularities.

“Are we afraid that SMNI may be right? Are we afraid of the truth?” she asked.

In remarks aired on Thursday by “SMNI Newsblast,” Duterte said that the MTRCB’s move to suspend his show violated his “constitutional right to free expression.”

He said his right to free expression “is absolute.”

“That is how I understand it,” the former president said. “A temporary preventive suspension is by itself already a censorship.”

His former spokesperson, Salvador Panelo, agreed with Duterte that the network itself was the target of the move against the ex-president.

Expressing Duterte’s sentiments, Panelo said the suspension was a violation of press freedom.

“You restrain the network and the hosts from expressing their opinion on certain matters,” he said in the same SMNI news program.

Partosa and Celiz, whose “Laban Kasama Ang Bayan” is a flagship show of SMNI that was launched in July 2021, are also facing other civil suits.

No celebration

In addition to Castro and Casiño, Bagong Alyansang Makabayan chair emeritus Carol Araullo and her son, journalist Atom Araullo, also filed separate damage claims against the two for allegedly Red-tagging them and putting their lives in danger.

Quiboloy himself is in legal trouble in the United States where he is wanted by the Federal Bureau of Investigation for sex trafficking and bulk cash smuggling. The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) cautioned against “celebrating” SMNI’s suspension.

In a statement on Thursday, the guild urged journalists to keep sight of how similar tactics used against SMNI were also used to silence critical media under the Duterte administration.

NUJP was referring to the weaponization of the suspension order against ABS-CBN network, leading to its shutdown in 2020; the arbitrary policies used to censor and block alternative news outlets like Bulatlat and PinoyWeekly; and charges of tax evasion against Rappler and the Inquirer. It acknowledged the harm being done on SMNI’s shows by the Red-tagging of journalists and activists.

“SMNI, its consultants, and its talents should be held accountable for peddling disinformation and hate speech, but should be accountable for those offenses and not for simply offending a member of Congress,” NUJP said.

At the same time, it also urged SMNI to “reflect on how they cheered on and abetted similar moves when these tactics were being used against journalists and newsrooms,” while they “cry press freedom and freedom of expression now.” —WITH REPORTS FROM MELVIN GASCON, KRIXIA SUBINGSUBING AND INQUIRER RESEARCH 


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Going after SMNI 

TAGS: NTC, Quiboloy, SMNI, suspension

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