The future of Sonshine Media Network International’s (SMNI) business operations appears to be uncertain following the approval of the House Committee on Legislative Franchises resolution urging the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) to suspend its activities.
Operating under the congressional franchise granted to Swara Sug Media Corporation in August 2019, as outlined in Republic Act (RA) No. 11422, SMNI’s fate now hangs in the balance.
The House Resolution (HR) 1499 was adopted by the House franchise panel, chaired by Parañaque City Rep. Gus Tambunting. The resolution cited numerous violations, including the alleged dissemination of fake news and engagement in red tagging by SMNI.
PBA Party-list Rep. Margarita Nograles, the resolution’s author, cited SMNI’s failure to exercise caution in its privilege to operate in an industry with public interest.
According to Nograles, SMNI, as a media entity, has a responsibility to the public not to disseminate deliberately false information, as outlined in Section 4 of RA 11422.
Nograles said SMNI failed to exercise extreme caution in exercising its privilege to operate in an industry imbued with public interest.
“As we have heard in the hearing, there are several instances where SMNI peddled fake news against certain public officials. They themselves are not denying these instances,” she said.
The approval of HR 1499 concluded the franchise panel’s second hearing, prompted by House Deputy Majority Leader David Suarez’s privilege speech.
Suarez responded to accusations made on the SMNI program “Laban Kasama Ang Bayan” about Speaker Ferdinand Martin G. Romualdez allegedly incurring P1.8 billion in travel expenses. The panel chair, Tambunting, announced plans for an upcoming third hearing.
House Secretary General Reginald “Reggie” S. Velasco, however, clarified that the Office of the Speaker only spent P4.3 million from January 2023 to October 2023 for foreign trips.
The franchise committee is also tackling two resolutions from the Makabayan bloc regarding SMNI: one on alleged fake news peddling and “baseless” red-tagging of individuals, groups, and organizations; and another on alleged fake news peddling, baseless red-tagging, and grave threats against ACT Teachers Rep. France Castro by former President Rodrigo Duterte and SMNI.
In a related development, the House committee cited SMNI anchor Lorraine Badoy in contempt for allegedly lying under oath during the hearing.
Badoy’s detention at the Batasan Complex was ordered until the panel completes its inquiry in the plenary.
The decision was based on concerns that Badoy did not truthfully disclose details about the advertisements on her program, as well as alleged irregularities in SMNI’s documents.
Lawmakers also cited in contempt SMNI anchor Jeffrey Celiz and ordered his detention at the Batasan Complex until after the adoption in the plenary of the panel’s committee report.
Image credits: House of Representatives/Facebook