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Wednesday, May 22, 2024

Solon wants SMNI franchise axed over corporate structure changes

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A lawmaker filed a bill seeking to revoke the franchise of Sonshine Media Network International (SMNI) for violating various provisions of its franchise.

In his explanatory note, 1 Rider party-list Rep. Ramon Rodrigo Gutierrez said the House committee on legislative franchises found that SMNI changed its corporate structure which affected its ownership without prior approval from Congress – a requirement under its franchise.

“In 2006, it transitioned from being a non-stock, non-profit corporation to a corporation solely under Pastor Apollo Quiboloy.

However, in 2023, the Executive Pastor changed hands anew as Apollo Quiboloy was replaced by one Bro. Marlon Acobo in the corporation sole,” Gutierrez said in his explanatory note.

Other franchise violations include SMNI’s alleged failure to disperse at least 30 percent of its ownership to the public as well as failure to deliver truthful and balanced reporting.

In filing House Bill 9710, Gutierrez said the “grant of a franchise is a special privilege that constitutes a right and a duty to be informed by the guarantee.”

“It is Congress that prescribes the conditions on which the grant of the franchise may be made. Thus, the manner of granting the franchise, to whom it may be granted, the mode of conducting the business, the charter and the quality of the service to be rendered, and the duty of the grantee to the public in exercising the franchise, is almost always defined in clear and unequivocal language,” he added.

As this developed, the House committee on legislative franchises on Tuesday ordered the release of SMNI anchors Jeffrey Celiz and Lorraine Badoy-Partosa from detention based on humanitarian grounds and in the spirit of the Yuletide season.

Parañaque City Rep. Gustavo Tambunting, the panel’s chairperson, said the release order was unanimously agreed upon by committee members in a meeting held to discuss the appeal of Celiz for liberty in time for the celebration of Christmas.

“The committee decided to release Celis and Badoy purely on humanitarian grounds. Tomorrow is the last day of session and we do not want Mr. Celiz and Ms. Badoy to spend their Christmas and New Year in detention,” Tambunting said.

Celiz has been detained for contempt over his refusal to identify the source of his false claim that Speaker Martin Romualdez spent P1.8 billion on travel in a year.

Badoy, on the other hand, was held in contempt for allegedly lying about the details of advertisements in her program.

Tambunting earlier said fake news has no place in modern Philippine society as he cited the need for media practitioners to always exercise prudence in performing their duties and responsibilities.

While free speech and freedom of the press are constitutional rights, Tambunting said the allocation of TV and radio frequencies is subject to the authority of Congress over legislative franchises.

He said the release order has nothing to do with the petition of writ of habeas corpus filed by the spouses of Celiz and Badoy before the Supreme Court.

“The habeas corpus filed before the Supreme Court was never discussed during the meeting, and has no bearing in our decision,” he said.

“All in all, we have taken in cognizance Mr. Celiz’s apology, his admission that what he mentioned was fake news, and his earnest appeal to be released to attend to his ailing mother,” Tambunting added.

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