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House cites Celiz for contempt, orders detention of SMNI host


The House Committee on Legislative Franchises cited SMNI television host Eric Celiz in contempt and ordered him to be detained after he refused to name his source who claimed that Speaker Martin Romualdez has a P1.8 billion travel fund, a source that Celiz later admitted was wrong.

The motion to cite Celiz in contempt was made by Surigao del Sur representative Johnny Pimentel after the SMNI personality refused multiple times to divulge the identity of his source.

In his defense, Celiz cited Republic Act (RA) 11485 or An Act Expanding the Coverage of Exemptions from Revealing the Source of Published News or Information Obtained in Confidence by Including Journalists from Broadcast, and News Agencies.

Celiz specifically cited Section 1 of the said law which states, “Without prejudice to his liability under the civil and criminal laws, any publisher, owner, or duly recognized or accredited... media practitioner involved in the writing, editing, production, and dissemination of news for mass circulation, of any print, broadcast, wire service organization, or electronic mass media, including cable TV and its variants, cannot be compelled to reveal the source of any news item, report or information appearing or being reported or disseminated through said media, which was related in confidence to the abovementioned media practitioners unless the court or the House of Representatives or the Senate or any committee of Congress finds that such revelation is demanded by the security of the State."

The lawmakers, however, dismissed Celis’ argument, pointing to his prior admission that his source was wrong. 

 “You cannot cite the Sotto Law because such law is not applicable in this case. It is not our fault that you did not have counsel the last hearing,” Parañaque city representative and House Legislative Franchises panel chairperson Gus Tambunting said during the inquiry on the franchise of Swara Sug Media Corporation of the Philippines which owns and operates the SMNI over SMNI's broadcast of Romualdez supposedly having a P1.8 billion travel fund.

“You (Celiz) already said the statement [you] issued [from the source] were false and you apologized for it,” Tambunting added.

 

SMNI operates under the Republic Act 11422 which granted a 25-year franchise to Swara Sug Media Corporation of the Philippines in 2019. 

 

Pimentel’s motion to cite Celiz in contempt also states that the host will be in detention until the committee report on the ongoing inquiry on the SMNI franchise is approved before the House plenary.

Prior to being cited in contempt, Celiz also asked the committee to strike his previous apology for putting forward wrong information from his source off the record because he did not have legal counsel last meeting.

"It is not our fault that you did not have counsel because the SMNI lawyers, on record, distanced from you and said they are not here to defend you," Tambunting said.

Abang Lingkod party-list lawmaker Stephen Paduano agreed with his colleague, admonishing Celiz, "You do not lecture us on what to do. You are out of order."

Navotas lawmaker Tobias Tiangco offered Celiz a chance to reveal his source in an executive session, which is not open to the public.

Celiz, however, still refused to do so and questioned Congress’ authority to make him disclose his source.

“I will not answer the question because I believe Congress does not have the right to interpret laws,” Celiz said.

As Celiz was escorted out of the hearing he raised his fist and said, "Thank you to this kangaroo court!"—RF, GMA Integrated News

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