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House panel adopts reso urging suspension of SMNI operations

A House committee on Wednesday adopted a resolution calling on the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) to suspend the franchise of Swara Sug Media Corporation, which operates and runs Sonshine Media Network International (SMNI).

According to the House Committee on Legislative Franchises, Swara Sug Media Corporation violated Section 4 of its franchise, which is about the responsibility of the franchisee not to deliberately disseminate false information or engage in willful misrepresentation.

PBA party-list Representative Margarita Nograles alleged that SMNI had peddled fake news against public officials, including Speaker Martin Romualdez, who program host Eric Celiz, citing his source, said had travel fund worth P1.8 billion.

"As representatives of the people, we have the responsibility to ensure that the people shall be protected from false and malicious information," Nograles, who made the motion to approve the resolution, said.

"This is not an attack on the freedom of the press. Rather, we are defending the right of the people to have accurate and true reporting so that they can formulate honest opinions and thus contribute positively to society," she added.

Celiz, during the committee's hearings, has admitted that his source was wrong. He also attempted to strike such admission off congressional records on the argument that he made it without guidance of a counsel. 

The committee, however, denied the request, saying it was not its fault that Celiz failed to secure counsel.

During Tuesday's hearing, Surigao del Sur Representative Johnny Pimentel called out SMNI program hosts Lorraine Badoy and Celiz for linking individuals, including opposition leaders, to communist rebels allegedly without sufficient proof.

Badoy, who was spokesperson of the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) during the previous administration, said their statement was based on evidence and not merely an opinion.

Badoy and Celiz were later cited in contempt over confusing statements on the source of SMNI revenues and for refusing to name the source of the information regarding Romualdez's supposed travel fund, respectively.

Also during Tuesday’s hearing, it was revealed that 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. 

GMA News Online has reached out to SMNI president Marlon Rosete for his comment but he has yet to respond as of posting time. —KBK, GMA Integrated News