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Detained SMNI host names 'source,' seeks furlough, says Tambunting

Sonshine Media Network Incorporation (SMNI) program host Jeffrey "Ka Eric" Celiz has named his source on Speaker Martin Romualdez's supposed P1.8 billion worth of travel fund, House committee on legislative franchises chairperson Gus Tambunting said Monday.

Tambunting said Celiz gave the name when he visited the latter and his co-host Lorraine Badoy, who are currently detained in the House of Representatives after they were cited in contempt over unresponsive answers to queries of the lawmakers.

Celiz initially refused to name his source.

“I asked [him], if you are willing to divulge the person (source) to me because they did not want to say it in an executive session, and a name was given. There is [indeed] a source,” Tambunting told reporters.

“I will discuss the source with the committee [members], and the Speaker and the Senate president. We have to validate [what was told to me]. [He said it was] one source,” he added.

Since Tambunting’s panel has probed SMNI’s franchise over its broadcast on Romualdez’s travel fund, Celis said his source was wrong.  

The lawmaker said the source, according to Celiz, was a male.

The House leader, however, clarified that Celiz’s decision to divulge his source will not guarantee freedom for him and Badoy.

“Ibang usapan po, huwag nating ihalo. If we decide to give furlough to them, it doesn’t mean the SMNI issue goes with it. [Giving the name is] one step forward. Kapag ang binigay po niyang tao ay talagang isang buhay na tao, that would lighten their guilt,” Tambunting said.

(The SMNI probe is a different matter. If the named source is a real person that would lighten their guilt.)

“Their request for furlough is separate from the resolution requesting SMNI shutdown,” he added.

Tambunting said Celiz requested for furlough as the latter's mother was allegedly physically unwell.

The House committee on legislative franchises earlier adopted a resolution calling on the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) to suspend the operation of SMNI under Swara Sug Media Corporation franchise granted by Congress in 2019.

The panel said SMNI allegedly violated provisions of its franchise particularly Section 4 which states that the grantee has “the responsibility to the public not to use its station or facilities for the dissemination of deliberately false information or willful misrepresentation to the detriment of the public interest.”

The congressional probe also revealed that SMNI has violated its agreement with the Movie And Television Review And Classification Board (MTRCB) to refrain from broadcasting the threats of former President Rodrigo Duterte against House Deputy Minority Leader France Castro. 

Celiz and Badoy also earlier said they are on hunger strike, but Tambunting said Monday the two are on liquid diet and are well.

“They are very, very well. They are saying that they are [on hunger strike] but they look so well,” he said.

“They are very well, there’s Pocari, sugar, Gatorade. They are okay. They are taking sugary drinks. Doctors see them every now and then. Their rooms have a division,” he added.


Later in the hearing, Tambunting’s panel deferred action on Celiz’s request for furlough after his kin and that of Badoy filed a petition for certiorari and writ of habeas corpus before the Supreme Court for their release.

“We have to make it clear with them first on what their legal position on this proceedings is before we can move on [to decide on his furlough request],” Tambunting said.

“That being the case, the decision on whether or not to grant the request for furlough of Ka Eric is hereby suspended until further clarification,” he added.

House committee on human rights chairperson Bienvenido Abante agreed.

“His letter [seeking furlough and apology] and actuations of their loved ones filed before the Supreme Court are highly hypocritical. We are ferreting out the truth here. We don’t want anybody to make a big fool out of us,” Abante said.—AOL, GMA Integrated News