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SMNI hosts on hunger strike slam House detention

Pushing forward with a hunger strike to highlight their protest, program hosts Lorraine Badoy and Eric Celiz of Sonshine Media Network International (SMNI) have denounced their detention at the Batasan Pambansa as an "injustice."

In a Facebook post, Celiz insisted that he and Badoy have been illegally held after appearing before the House Committee on Legislative Franchises on Wednesday.

"I, and Dr. Lorraine Badoy are now entering the second day of our hunger strike/hunger protest as we continue to resist and oppose our serious illegal detention at the House of Representatives/Batasan Complex," Celiz said.

Celiz was cited in contempt during the committee hearing on SMNI's media franchise for refusing to reveal his source who provided information that Speaker Martin Romualdez has a P1.8-billion travel fund. Badoy was similarly cited in contempt for allegedly acting in a disrespectful manner and refusing to tell the truth to the panel.

"Please keep us strong by your prayers and moral support... for God, country and our people, we shall persevere," Celiz said.

For her part, Badoy insisted that their detention trampled upon their rights as members of the press.

"Our democratic right to free expression - the right above all rights - is being trampled on by the government and our freedom of the press where the government is being held accountable to the people, is being demolished right before our very eyes," Badoy said.

'Fair' treatment

Parañaque Rep. Gus Tambunting, chairperson of the House Committee on Legislative Franchises, maintained that the House panel has been fair in conducting the SMNI probe.

"Ka Eric was accorded due process throughout the proceedings. He was repeatedly requested to disclose his source of information, consistent with the committee's oversight functions. This request was backed by opportunities for explanation, the option of an executive session, and legal counsel," Tambunting said in a separate interview.

Tambunting, however, could not say if such a hunger strike would make the committee release Badoy and Celiz.

"Ginagalang po natin ang desisyon nila (We respect their decision). That is their prerogative. They have food and water, from the House," Tambunting said.

"[But] we really don't know what their intentions are. To persuade this committee [to free them]? I really don't know [what is the goal here]," Tambunting pointed out.

Tambunting then said that the SMNI hosts' dilemma can be addressed after they tell the truth.

"Sabihin na po nila ang totoo para matapos na po. Ang hinahanap lang natin ay katotohahan. (They should just tell the truth because what we are after is the truth.) News must be credible," Tambunting said.

"You (the media) should be credible because the public believes you. Hindi puwedeng basta magbitaw ng mga salita na hindi kaya panindigan (The media cannot just say things that cannot be substantiated)," the lawmaker added. - VDV, GMA Integrated News