SMNI files motion to inhibit NTC execs

Citing bias in admin case
SMNI files motion to inhibit NTC execs
Video screenshot from SMNI News/YouTube

SONSHINE Media Network International (SMNI) filed a motion on Thursday, January 4, requesting the inhibition of three National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) officials from its administrative case due to perceived unfair bias.

SMNI's legal counsel, Mark Tolentino, and Rolex Suplico filed a six-page motion urging NTC officials Commissioner Ella Lopez and Deputy Commissioners Jon Salvahan and Alvin Blanco to recuse themselves from further action in the case.

Tolentino argued, "On its face, the show cause order suffers from a fatal flaw. NTC is the judge, NTC is also the complainant, and NTC is likewise the executioner. This is worse than an impartial judge, which is totally abhorred in this country." 

He emphasized the violation of due process, stating, "Due process dictates [the] neutrality of an impartial judge and must appear to be impartial."

With this, Tolentino said they are "not expecting due process in this office [NTC] lalo na sa (especially from) [...] commissioner at dalawang (and the two) deputy commissioner."

Suplico added, "In short, we cannot expect justice from the NTC in this case."

This motion followed NTC's issuance of a show cause order with a 30-day suspension against SMNI in December 2023, alleging franchise violations.

SMNI's legal counsel argued that the dual position of the NTC officials violates due process, saying, "In the instant case… appearance of impartiality can never be obtained with the dual function of this Honorable Commission, that being the judge and complainant at the same time. With this, the respondent cannot expect an impartial judgment from this Honorable Commission as judge and complainant."

Suplico questioned why the case was handled by a hearing officer instead of the three NTC commissioners directly. 

He expressed concerns about the authority of the hearing officer in conducting the hearing.

“Ang public interest ay mataas dapat silang tatlo ang nag hear dito. So dinelegate nila ‘yan sa hearing officer. So kwinestyon namin, ano ba ang authority ng hearing officer para mag conduct ng hearing instead of the commissioner and her two deputies (The public interest is high, and the three of them should have presided over this. Instead, they delegated it to a hearing officer. So we question the authority of the hearing officer to conduct the hearing instead of the commissioner and her two deputies),” he said.

According to him, the case has been submitted for resolution, and a decision is expected soon, addressing core issues of democracy and due process.

Meanwhile, SMNI lawyers have requested until January 20 to file a responsive pleading.

Davao City-based legislator Margarita “Migs” Ignacia B. Nograles proposed a resolution urging the NTC to suspend SMNI's operations, citing alleged franchise violations and the dissemination of false information as grounds for suspension.

Former president Rodrigo Duterte criticized the Movie and Television Review and Classification Board (MTRCB) for suspending his weekly program, calling it a violation of his "right to free expression." MTRCB imposed a 14-day preventive suspension on two SMNI programs: “Gikan sa Masa, Para sa Masa” and “Laban Kasama ang Bayan.” The latter is hosted by Duterte's former administration official Lorraine Badoy. RGL

Related stories:

SMNI files motion to inhibit NTC execs
SMNI suspension urged for alleged violations
SMNI files motion to inhibit NTC execs
No politics in probe of SMNI, says Migs Nograles
SMNI files motion to inhibit NTC execs
MTRCB suspension of SMNI show violates 'right to free expression': Duterte


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