House revokes SMNI franchise for violations

House revokes SMNI franchise for violations

/ 05:42 AM March 21, 2024

PHOTO: Lorraine Badoy and Jeffrey Celiz STORY: House revokes SMNI franchise for violations

Lorraine Badoy and Jeffrey Celiz (Photos from the House of Representatives)

MANILA, Philippines — The House of Representatives passed on third and final reading on Wednesday a bill revoking the franchise granted to Swara Sug Media Corp. which operates under the business name Sonshine Media Network International (SMNI), the broadcasting network of the Kingdom of Jesus Christ Church, led by preacher Apollo Quiboloy.

During their plenary session, 284 congressmen voted in favor of House Bill No. 9710, repealing Republic Act No. 11422, or the law granting Swara Sug its 25-year legislative franchise.


READ: House approves bill revoking SMNI franchise


Four lawmakers voted against the bill, while four abstained. Those opposed were Davao City Rep. Paolo Duterte, Pampanga Rep. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, Duterte Youth party list Rep. Drixie Mae Cardema and Kabayan party list Rep. Ron Salo. During his sponsorship of the bill last week, House committee on legislative franchises chair and Parañaque City Rep. Gustavo Tambunting said his panel concluded, “after exhaustive deliberation,” that Swara Sug committed several infractions of its franchise.

He highlighted the importance and potency of broadcast media in influencing people and shaping public opinion, saying, “It is, therefore, important that broadcasting, especially news reporting, is fair and accurate.”

Blatant SMNI red-tagging cited

Tambunting said that during the hearings they conducted, the panel found that Swara Sug failed to comply with Sections 4 and 7 of RA 11422 due to SMNI’s “blatant red-tagging, fake news peddling, and violations of broadcasting standards.”

He added that Sections 10, 11, and 12 of the same law were also violated after Swara Sug failed to report to Congress changes in its corporate structure and ownership and submit an annual report on its compliance with the terms of its franchise.

In one of the hearings, the panel observed the submission of differing general information sheets (GIS), which included documents about Swara Sug’s ultimate beneficial owner, to Congress and the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).

The notarized GIS given to Congress showed Quiboloy as the owner until April 2021, while the notarized GIS given to the SEC indicated he owned the company only until 2020.


Tambunting said the GIS submitted to Congress and the SEC should have contained the same information.

The congressional inquiry into Swara Sug’s franchise violations stemmed from SMNI’s alleged practice of spreading fake news following its claim that Speaker Ferdinand Martin Romualdez spent P1.8 billion on foreign travel in 2023.

SMNI talent Jeffrey Celiz aired the false claim on his program “Laban Kasama ang Bayan,” but House Secretary General Reginald Velasco submitted documents showing that last year, the Speaker’s office spent only P4.3 million for travel while the entire House travel expenditures totaled over P35.3 million.

Gabriela women’s party list Rep. Arlene Brosas, who voted in favor of the bill, noted that Quiboloy had continuously ignored House summons for him to attend the hearing.

“While freedom of the press is a fundamental right that should be protected, it does not extend to the spread of misinformation and lies. SMNI does not have the right to claim that the revocation of their franchise is an issue of press freedom when they are spreading misinformation,” Brosas said in explaining her vote.

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For ACT Teachers Party-list Rep. France Castro who also voted to revoke the franchise, “SMNI is not a part of media and should not be compared to real media.”

TAGS: SMNI franchise, Sonshine Media Network International

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