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SMNI broke pledge to stop airing Duterte's threats – MTRCB exec

Sonshine Media Network International (SMNI) failed to deliver on its promise to the Movie and Television Review and Classification Board (MTRCB) that it would refrain from airing threats leveled by former president Rodrigo Duterte against House Deputy Minority Leader France Castro, a senior official of the board said Tuesday.


Speaking on the second day of the congressional inquiry on the SMNI franchise, MTRCB Board Member Atty. Cesar Pareja said the network gave its word following its episode on Gikan sa Masa, Para sa Masa on Oct. 10, wherein Duterte said he wanted to kill communists, including Castro.

"There is a case filed for SMNI's airing [of the Oct. 10 episode]... We called the parties into hearing, and they (SMNI) promised not to repeat the same," Pareja said.

The MTRCB official added that SMNI "even admitted that they have decided to pre-record the succeeding episode so they can avoid having this matter on air. This was resolved in a Nov. 9 Resolution… but despite this decision, the [SMNI] entity again [went on to] broadcast with the same content. They violated what we have agreed upon," Pareja added.

The House probe was conducted following statements made by SMNI anchor Eric Celiz that Speaker Martin Romualdez supposedly has P1.8 billion in travel funds.

Celiz has since clarified that his source for the information was wrong, and issued an apology last November 30. However, Celiz later wanted to strike the apology off the record, saying he made it without the guidance of a counsel.

Pareja said that MTRCB has since called on SMNI to appear before the board on December 7, Thursday, to explain its defiance.

"In our previous Resolution [last November], we gave them [a] warning that similar infractions will be dealt with more severely," Pareja said.

KBP membership

Rudolph Jularbal, Kapisanan ng mga Brodkaster ng Pilipinas (KBP) vice president for legal and regulatory compliance, said Tuesday that the KBP received a complaint against SMNI on Dec. 5 seeking to cancel the network’s franchise.

Section 4 of the Republic Act 11422, which granted the franchise to Swara Sug Media Corporation of the Philippines that operates SMNI, provides that "the franchise grantee should not use its stations or facilities for the broadcasting of obscene or indecent language, speech, act, or scene; or for the dissemination of deliberately false information or willful misrepresentation, to the detriment of the public interest; or to incite, encourage, or assist in subversive or treasonable acts."

"The complaint... which was received today... involves violation of the franchise because of airing unverified reports, personal attacks with the intention to malign and to incite violence... use of indecent and obscene language to incite violence or rebellion, name-calling or personal insults," Jularbal said.

Jularbal said Swara Sug Media withdrew from KBP last Dec. 4. For his part, SMNI counsel Mark Tolentino confirmed the network's withdrawal from KBP.

"We withdrew last December 4, 2023, so the case pending with the KBP is already moot and academic," Tolentino said.

‘Need for revocation’

Surigao del Sur Rep. Johnny Pimentel said that SMNI's defiance of its agreement with the MTRCB, and its abrupt withdrawal of KBP, only prove that its license to operate under the Swara Sug Media Corporation of the Philippines franchise should be revoked.

"SMNI has been told not to use their TV network to peddle false information, malign and harass individuals, but in spite of that, they still did those things. It is very clear that we have established that they are in violation of Section 4 of their franchise," Pimentel said.

"That is a different entity asking SMNI to stop doing these things, and Atty. Pareja said that if they fail to comply, they will be dealt with more severely. And the fact that they withdrew from KBP just underscores the need for the revocation of their license. I don't need to ask the question because it is very clear," Pimentel said.

Tolentino argued that KBP membership is not mandatory.

"It was a voluntary action [to join KBP] on our part, and we also have an option not to be a member [anymore]," Tolentino said. - VDV, GMA Integrated News