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House bill seeks revocation of SMNI franchise

Due to alleged violations of its franchise, such as the willful dissemination of false information and the transfer of ownership without congressional approval, a bill seeking the revocation of the franchise of Swara Sug Media Corporation, which runs and operates Sonshine Media Network International (SMNI), was filed at the House of Representatives. 

The proposal, authored by1-Rider party-list lawmaker Rodge Gutierrez, was filed under House Bill 9710 a day after the House also adopted a resolution urging the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) to suspend Swara Sug’s franchise to operate SMNI due to the alleged violations.

Gutierrez, in his bill, flagged franchise grantee Swara Sug for “failure to deliver truthful and balanced reporting to its audience” by citing the various complaints filed against SMNI before the Kapisanan ng mga Brodkaster ng Pilipinas, National Telecommunications Commission, Movie and Television Review and Classification Board, and the regional trial courts.

“SMNI has engaged in red-tagging and fake news peddling, labeling members of the House, the former Vice President of the Philippines [Leni Robredo], and private persons as members of the New People's Army. The [franchise] grantee corporation also attempted to create discord between the Upper and the Lower House by insinuating that unnamed and unverified Senate sources have claimed that Congress had spent P1.8 billion in travel expenses in 2023 without any basis or proof,” said Gutierrez.

“In fact, this baseless allegation was subsequently disproved by no less than the head of the Finance Department of the House of Representatives. Clearly, all these acts of SMNl run contrary to its mandate provided under Section 4 of the law that granted its franchise," Gutierrez added.

Section 4 of the Swara Sug's franchise provided under Republic Act 11422 provides that the franchise 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.”

Further, Gutierrez said SMNI admitted to transitioning from a non-stock, non-profit corporation to a corporation sole under Executive Pastor Apollo Quiboloy in 2006 before transferring the said controlling stake to Bro. Marlon Acobo in 2023, with both actions taken without congressional approval.

The congressional approval required for such acts, Gutierrez said, is provided under Section 10 of Republic Act 11422 which granted Swara Sug its franchise which states that the franchise grantee “should not sell, lease, transfer, grant the usufruct of, nor assign this franchise or the rights and privileges acquired thereunder to any person, firm, company, corporation or other commercial or legal entity, nor merge with any other corporation or entity, nor shall transfer the controlling interest of the grantee, simultaneously or contemporaneously, to any person, firm, company, corporation, or entity without the prior approval of the Congress of the Philippines.”

Gutierrez argued that Section 10 also provides that Congress should be informed of any sale, lease, transfer, grant of usufruct, or assignment of franchise or the rights and privileges acquired thereunder, or of the merger or transfer of the controlling interest of the grantee, within 60 days after the completion of the said transaction.

Finally, Gutierrez said the same Section 10 also states that “failure to report to Congress such change of ownership will render the franchise ipso facto revoked.”

GMA News Online has sought comment from SMNI President Marlon Rosete, but he has yet to reply as of posting time. — DVM, GMA Integrated News