Bill to put SMNI off-air passed on 2nd reading

Bill to put SMNI off-air passed on 2nd reading

/ 05:30 AM March 14, 2024

Sonshine Media Network International (SMNI)

Photo of SMNI logo from INQUIRER FILES

The House of Representatives on Wednesday approved on second reading the revocation of the 25-year franchise granted to Swara Sug Media Corp, which operates under the business name of Sonshine Media Network International (SMNI), for various violations of its permit to operate.

During Wednesday’s plenary session, legislators approved viva voce and without amendment House Bill No. 9710 that would repeal Republic Act No. 11422, which granted Swara Sug the legislative franchise in August 2019.


During his sponsorship of the draft measure, House committee on legislative franchises chair and Parañaque City Rep.  said that “after exhaustive deliberation on the issues surrounding the operations of Swara Sug Media Corp., operating under the business name SMNI, (the committee) has concluded that the grantee committed several violations of its franchise granted under RA 11422.”


READ: House panel approves bill revoking SMNI franchise

According to Tambunting, “media broadcasting, as we all know, is a powerful medium that provides the public with crucial and vital information on current events, on government workings and other significant reports that affect the daily lives of the people. It can influence people and generate public opinion as well as foster cynicism and mistrust on matters involving public interest.”

“It is, therefore, important that broadcasting, especially news reporting, is fair and accurate,” he stressed.

Tambunting noted that while the Kapisanan ng mga Brodkaster ng Pilipinas (KBP) maintains a broadcaster’s code that binds all news media practitioners to observe fairness and objectivity, SMNI had relinquished its membership with the organization during the course of the committee’s six hearings and inquiry that lasted five months.

He observed that SMNI’s leaving KBP was a “clear manifestation that it did not want to be covered by the set of standards and ethics of broadcasting.”

Tambunting said that during his panel’s inquiry, it was found that SMNI committed violations of several provisions of its franchise, “therefore warranting its revocation.”


The lawmaker cited Sections 4 and 7 of RA 11422, which were violated through “blatant Red-tagging, fake news peddling and violations of broadcasting standards.”

He added that Swara Sug also violated Sections 10, 11 and 12 of the franchise in failing to seek approval from Congress for any changes in ownership and controlling interest and was remiss to “comply with reportorial requirements for almost three decades.”

SMNI was previously owned by Kingdom of Jesus Christ (KOJC) founding pastor Apollo Quiboloy, who claimed to have recently relinquished the network’s ownership without reporting the change to Congress. In 2020, SMNI reported to the Securities and Exchange Commission that it was 95 percent owned by KOJC.

Two years later, SMNI transferred 46 percent of its ownership to another entity without obtaining congressional approval.

During the House committee’s hearing on Tuesday afternoon, HB 9710, which was filed by 1-Rider Rep. Ramon Rodrigo Gutierrez, was approved without amendments by Tambunting and the committee report containing the bill was subsequently approved by the panel.

False informationSMNI was initially probed by the House after “Laban Kasama ang Bayan” program host Jeffrey Celiz wrongly claimed that Speaker Martin Romualdez spent P1.8 billion for trips in 2023.

House Secretary General Reginald Velasco clarified that the total travel cost for all House members and their staff from January 2023 to October 2023 was only P39.6 million.

Lawmakers have noted that SMNI’s airing of such content was in violation of Section 4 of RA 11422, which prohibits the dissemination of deliberately false information or willful misrepresentation to the detriment of the public interest.

Eventually, hearings on the network revealed other possible infractions of its franchise.

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The House panel had summoned Quiboloy to testify on these gross violations committed by SMNI, but the religious sect leader snubbed the subpoena, prompting the issuance of an order for his arrest.


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